Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing & Justice (PATH) was formally organized in 2002, pioneering in its focus on human rights violations by a non-state armed group. Composed of torture survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims missing or executed during the anti-infiltration campaigns within the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in the 1980s, PATH seeks truth and justice from the CPP-NPA and other Left blocs involved in the anti-infiltration campaigns.
PATH believes that all non-state armed groups, including those not from the Left movement, should observe human rights in the conduct of their resistance against the State. Ultimately, PATH holds the State accountable as well for the purges, and for military atrocities during martial law and throughout successive administrations.
Goals & Objectives
PATH's goals and objectives are as follows:
1. Complete the documents of the cases of all victims during the purges and all those involved.
2. Organize a national community of human rights defenders and advocates composed of survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims during the purges.
3. Facilitate the healing of survivors as well as the families, relatives and friends of purge victims.
4. Conduct exhumations so that victims are given due respect and proper burial.
5. Conduct a comprehensive advocacy work. Its main components will be public information and campaign, solidarity-building and lobbying at the local, national and international levels.
6. Deepen and popularize the culture of human rights through artistic and popular education, productions and other cultural endeavors.
7. Come up with case studies of country experiences on the setting up of Truth and Justice Commissions and strive for the creation of a Truth and Justice Commission in the country together with other human rights organizations and individual human rights advocates.
Research & Documentation. Documents stories and produces a database of victims in aid of locating burial sites; conducts research to surface facts and circumstances of the purges; publishes materials as tools for justice campaigns; ensures confidentiality and security of records and files.
Recovery of Victims' Remains. In cooperation with the victims' kin, locates gravesites, retrieves the remains and arranges their proper burial; mobilizes the services of forensic experts and other professionals; initiates dialogues with the victims' families as well as with perpetrators.
Counseling & Therapy. Facilitates healing sessions that address the long-term trauma of surivivors and victims families; mobilizes professionals in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; builds support groups for victims and their families towards eventual closure.
Communications & Popular Education. Develops education programs, including theoretical materials and tools for reflection, that revolve around human rights and respect for human dignity; holds commemoration activities and builds memorials for the victims; develops external communications through publications and mass media.
Legal & Security. Leads in the initiation and pursuance of legal actions for victims; assist in the handling and protection of material evidence in coordination with the RVR Committee; conducts research on the possibilities of a Truth Commission; studies the implications of PATH's work on the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the CPP-NPA-NDF; and ensures lines with established institutions that will help strengthen PATH;
Arts & Culture. Produces musical compositions, literary works, plays, video documentaries, films, and other cultural works from the stories of survivors and victims.
Organizing & Advocacy. Reaches out to survivors and victims' families in different regions and encourages solidarity in their journey towards justice and healing.
Gov't. Apathetic Toward Human Rights Abuses:Alston
The President and Former First Lady Imelda Marcos
1. I visited the Philippines at the invitation of the Government from 12 to 21 February 2007. I met with key government officials, including the President, the Executive Secretary, the National Security Adviser, the Secretaries for Defense and Justice, members of Congress, the Chief Justice, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, and the Ombudsman. Approximately half of my mission was devoted to meetings with representatives of civil society, in Manila, Baguio and Davao. Pending the submission of my final report to the Human Rights Council, this interim report provides a brief overview of my activities and identifies some of the issues which are of the most concern to me. Comments provided by the Government on a draft of this report are acknowledged with appreciation.
2. The Government cooperated in the organization and conduct of my mission in an exemplary fashion. As I indicated in my departing press conference, the fact of the invitation itself reflected a clear recognition of the gravity of the problem, a willingness to permit outside scrutiny, and a very welcome preparedness to engage on the issues. Civil society was equally engaged and I received very detailed and systematic information which contributed enormously to the success of the mission.
II. PRINCIPAL CONCERNS AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSES
3. In a nutshell, my visit was prompted by reports of a large number of extrajudicial killings, especially of leftist activists and journalists, over the past six years or so. While the estimates vary from 100 to 800 or more, I concluded that it is not productive to play the numbers game and seek to confirm any definitive number. No one disputes that large numbers have been killed. Especially problematic is the fact that the impact has been to intimidate vast numbers of civil society actors, to send a message of vulnerability to all but the most well connected, and to severely undermine political discourse.
4. In considering how to respond to the problem, it is not helpful to dwell unduly at this stage on the reluctance of the military, the police and some key ministers to come to terms with the reality and seriousness of the problem. Suffice it to note that the Government itself was sufficiently motivated to appoint both a high-level independent commission to investigate the problem (the Melo Commission) and a national-level police task force (with military cooperation) to investigate alleged killings promptly and bring prosecutions (Task Force Usig). In recent months, the Government has ordered a range of initiatives, including:
* The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been requested to draft an updated document on Command Responsibility;
* The Department of Justice (DOJ), DND, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) have been asked to constitute a Joint Fact-Finding body in relation to the alleged involvement of military personnel in the killings, and to charge and prosecute those responsible;
* The DOJ has been asked to broaden and enhance the Witness Protection Program (WPP);
* The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has announced the creation of 99 Special Courts to try those accused of killings of a political or ideological nature;
* The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has formally requested assistance from the European Union and others to provide funds in response to the killings;†
* An additional 25 million pesos (US$ 510,000) has been provided to the CHR to enable it to better address the problem; and
* The Presidential Human Rights Committee (as distinct from the CHR) has been rejuvenated.
5. The fact that there has been such a strong institutional response at the national level is initially encouraging. This in turn has been mirrored by the deep concerns expressed by a diverse range of actors within the international community. Taken together, these responses attest to the high saliency of the issue and the urgent need to identify measures which might help to end the spate of killings. The remainder of this interim report is devoted to that challenge.
III. THE ROAD AHEAD
6. The consequences of a failure to end extrajudicial killings in the Philippines will be dire. Efforts to resolve the various insurgencies will be set back significantly. Incentives to opposition groups to head for the hills rather than seek to engage in democratic politics will be enhanced, and international support for the Government will be undermined. A multifaceted and convincing governmental response is thus urgent.
7. In essence, the problem must be tackled at two different, but complementary, levels. At one level there is indeed a need for more staff, more resources, and more specialist expertise, a better witness-protection programme, and the strengthening of key institutions. The recent Government actions noted above have gone a considerable way in that direction. But such steps are premised almost entirely on the assumption that the key interventions required concern resources and expertise. The hope seems to be that if there can be better investigators, more forensic capacity, more focused judicial action, and more sustained action by the joint military/police task force, the problems will be resolved. But the strong risk is that these measures will treat only some of the symptoms of the crisis, and will fail to address meaningfully two of the most important underlying causes of a great many of the killings.
8. Those causes constitute the second level at which an effective national response is required. The first cause has been variously described as “vilification,” “labeling,” or guilt by association. It involves the characterization of most groups on the left of the political spectrum as “front organizations” for armed groups whose aim is to destroy democracy. The result is that a wide range of groups — including human rights advocates, labour union organizers, journalists, teachers unions, women’s groups, indigenous organizations, religious groups, student groups, agrarian reform advocates, and others — are classified as “fronts” and then as “enemies of the State” that are accordingly considered to be legitimate targets. The second cause is the extent to which aspects of the Government’s counter-insurgency strategy encourage or facilitate the extrajudicial killings of activists and other ‘enemies’ in certain circumstances. The final report will elaborate at length on this issue.
A. Orders of battle
9. While these two causes tend to operate separately from one another in many settings, they also come together in various ways. The most dramatic illustration is the “order of battle” approach adopted systematically by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and in practice often by the Philippines National Police (PNP). In military terms an order of battle is defined as “an organizational tool used by military intelligence to list and analyze enemy military units’.” The AFP adopts an order of battle in relation to the various regions and sub-regions in which they operate. A copy of a leaked document of this type, from 2006, was provided to me and I am aware of no reason to doubt its authenticity. The document, co-signed by senior military and police officials, calls upon “all members of the intelligence community in the [relevant] region…to adopt and be guided by this update to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front).” The document, some 110 pages in length, lists hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified, on the basis of intelligence, as members of organizations which the military deems “illegitimate”. Newspapers carry almost daily reports of senior military officials urging that such groups be neutralized and calling upon the populace to recognize that to support their candidates in the upcoming elections would be to support the enemy. This practice was openly and adamantly defended by nearly every member of the military with whom I spoke. When a significant number of individuals killed in incidents implicating the armed forces or police are also listed on an order of battle, it raises serious questions about the appropriateness of this practice. It may be, as I was told, a “political war,” but when such political war is conducted by soldiers rather than civilians, politics too quickly comes to involve guns as well as words. An interim recommendation emerges from this analysis and is outlined below.
B. Restoring accountability at all levels
10. One of the key impediments to the effectiveness of many of the measures announced by the Government in recent weeks is the fact that many of the accountability mechanisms which are invoked as checks on governmental abuses have been rendered ineffectual in dealing with such issues. On paper, they remain strong. In practice, they are of all too little use, and often this is the result of official design. These issues will be examined in detail in my final report but for present purposes it is sufficient to focus upon some key examples of institutional passivity in the face of large numbers of killings.
11. There is a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility, which affects the way in which key institutions and actors approach their responsibilities in relation to such human rights concerns. For example, in discussions with me, the chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights insisted that there was no role for Congress because no new legislation was required, given that murder was already a punishable offense. He openly denied that Congress should play any proactive oversight role regarding the executive’s execution of the law. He added that military promotions of those widely suspected of human rights violations were no concern of his Committee and had not been held up by the Congressional Commission on Appointments because no witnesses had come forward to object. He had not and did not intend to hold hearings into the widespread problem of extrajudicial killings because it was a matter for the executive, rather than the Congress.
12. The Secretary of Justice, and his colleagues, were perplexed at the proposition that prosecutors, whose role is absolutely central in the Philippines justice system, had some broader responsibility to take steps to uphold respect for human rights. Instead, their role was seen as a passive one. If a file presented to them was insufficient, their role was simply to return it and hope that the police would do better next time. It was not for them to observe or respond to clearly shoddy dossiers designed to ensure that the police could be said to have done their job while at the same time no prosecution would follow. The Government position is that prosecutors must show “total impartiality” and thus they cannot be directed to adapt their methods of work to ensure that everything possible is done to promote respect for human rights. That position seems to me to be highly problematic.
13. The Ombudsman’s office, despite the existence of a separate unit designed to investigate precisely the type of killings that have been alleged, has done almost nothing in recent years in this regard. The Government itself acknowledges that, of 44 complaints submitted from 2002 to 2006 alleging extrajudicial executions attributed to State agents, the Ombudsman’s office concluded that it was unable to act on even a single case. While such a result in relation to five or even ten cases might be justifiable, when it reaches the level of 44 cases the conclusion must be that the office is failing in its responsibilities. Many explanations were offered for its inactivity, but none were convincing. Moreover, in at least some situations the office operates as a de facto subsidiary of the Department of Justice.
14. Finally, the executive branch has stymied the legislature’s efforts to oversee the execution of laws. Military officers are seldom permitted to appear before Congress other than at budget hearings. A high-ranking government official recounted with genuine puzzlement the efforts of the Committee on Human Rights of the House of Representatives to obtain the testimony of senior military officers. This was considered self-evidently preposterous and was successfully avoided. Official policy, now in the form of a ‘memorandum circular’ provides that any official requested to “appear before either House of Congress” shall “forward the request…to the President through the Executive Secretary” who “shall consider whether the subject matter of the inquiry is in aid of legislation and/or falls within the scope of executive privilege.” This restrictive approach tends to make congressional oversight meaningless in practice.
IV. INTERIM RECOMMENDATIONS
15. I recommend that:
(a) The Government should immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies. If such characterizations are ever to be made it must be by civilian authorities, on the basis of transparent criteria, and in conformity with the human rights provisions of the Constitution and relevant treaties;
(b) The Government should commit to restoring the effectiveness of constitutionally mandated accountability arrangements, especially in relation to the role of Congressional oversight;
(c) In conjunction with the executive branch of Government, the Supreme Court should use its constitutional powers over the practice of law to impress upon prosecutors that they have a duty to the public to uphold and protect human rights by acting to ensure the effective investigation of cases and protection of witnesses;
(d) The Ombudsman’s office should begin to take seriously its independent constitutional role in responding to extrajudicial killings plausibly attributed to public officials;
(e) The Government should provide the Special Rapporteur with a copy of an “order of battle” relating to one of the zones in the country in which significant conflict is currently occurring.
MANILA, Philippines -- (2ND UPDATE) United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston described the Arroyo administration’s reaction to his 10-day visit to the country in February to investigate extrajudicial killings “deeply schizophrenic.”
The comments, contained in a transcript of Alston’s oral report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on his investigation, a copy of which was provided by the office of Senator Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, was more biting than the description of the special rapporteur’s speech given by undersecretary Cecilia “Coco” Quisumbing of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
Madrigal was also in Geneva to witness Alston’s submission of his preliminary report on his investigation of the extrajudicial killings. The report is also accessible on the UN website.
Earlier Wednesday, Quisumbing, quoting from accounts relayed to her by Philippine envoys who listened to Alston’s speech, said the report included impromptu comments that made his report “harsher” on the military than a draft received by the government.
In his speech, Alston noted that while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “taking positive initiatives” in response to recommendations he made, military and other key officials “have buried their collective heads in the sand and announced that business will continue as usual.”
At the same time, although Alston said killings by the New People’s Army are reprehensible and to be condemned,” he stressed that “there is absolutely no evidence that the recent surge in killings of leftist activists is due to a communist purge.”
“On the contrary, strong and consistent evidence leads to the conclusion that a significant number of these killings are due to the actions of the military,” he said.
He also noted that the NPA, Communist Party of the Philippines and National Democratic Front own responsibility for their own killings, and that the purges that rocked the ranks of the rebel movement happened two decades ago.
The UN expert, who made several recommendations to the Philippine government in his report, said these “will make little difference unless there is a fundamental change of heart on the part of the military or the emergence of civilian resolve to compel the military to change its ways.”
“Then, and only then, will it be possible to make real progress in ending the killings,” he stressed.
Quoting from his own statement before leaving the Philippines, Alston said the military continued to “remain in a state of almost total denial” over the killings.
Thus, a month after his visit, he said, “I have little reason for optimism.”
He cited a “colorful” statement of Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, who said last week that, “Alston won’t pay attention. He is blind, mute, and deaf. We can’t do anything about that,” reacting to the UN expert’s dismissal of military claims about a communist purge.
“Part of me appreciates the substitution of frank insults for the usual diplomatic platitudes, but anyone reading between the lines will receive a far more disturbing message: Those government officials who must act decisively if the killings are to end still refuse to accept that there is even a problem,” he told the UNHRC.
Alston said the military never substantiated its list the 1,227 names, dates, and places of individuals alleged to have been killed by communist rebels “despite numerous requests.”
He also accused the military of “disinformation” and dismissed as a “fabrication” Operation Bushfire, a purported rebel document the military claimed to have captured in May last year and which is supposed to detail a plan by the communists to kill their own members and pin the blame on the military.
“In the absence of strong supporting evidence, which I requested, this document bears all the hallmarks of a fabrication and cannot be taken as evidence of anything other than disinformation,” he said.
Alston insisted that his initial impression about the military being principally responsible for the killings remains true.
“I would repeat today that based on my fact-finding there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of killings. Subsequent evidence points to the continuing nature of that practice,” he said.
In his written report, Alston noted “a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility,” in the way the government and its officials “approach their responsibilities in relation to such human rights concerns” as the extrajudicial killings as he warned that failure to end the bloodshed would lead to “dire” consequences.
Quoting a member of the Philippine Mission to the UNHRC in Geneva, Quisumbing said Ambassador Enrique Manalo, as is allowed by Council rules, countered Alston’s report and told the body of the country’s efforts to end the killings.
Reacting to Alston’s description of the government response as “schizophrenic,” Quisumbing said she “strongly disagreed.”
Contrary to Alston’s description of the military, she said the AFP has already set up a human rights office and is already investigating 80 cases of military men possibly involved in the killings. “How can that be business as usual?” she asked.
This was in contrast to her reaction earlier in the day based on the accounts of the envoys in Geneva, during which she did not exactly contradict Alston’s findings and said “the government has to take a united stand because this is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution. This is not a race. It is not helpful to have a comparison [of actions] among branches of government.”
However, while saying the government is “disappointed,” Quisumbing said she was not surprised by Alston’s statement.
“First of all, the government is disappointed that Mr. Alston changed his statement without prior notice to us since the usual process is for a chance for the government to review his draft and we were under the impression that we had open dialogue with Mr. Alston,” she said.
“Secondly, this should not surprise us though because Mr. Alston said the same thing in his departure statement,” she added.
Quisumbing said that despite Alston’s “harsher” speech before the Council, she hopes the “interactive exchange of information” will continue.
She also said the government cannot comply with Alston’s request for a copy of a military “order of battle relating to one of the zones in the country in which significant conflict is currently occurring.”
She did say part of the Philippine response to the Alston report was a request for him to give the government a copy of a “leaked” order of battle he obtained while in the country and described as a 110-page document containing the names of hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified by the military as “illegitimate” so the authenticity of the document may be ascertained.
During his visit to the country, Alston interviewed relatives of the murder victims, witnesses, and various government officials.
One of those he interviewed, Siche Gandinao, a Bayan Muna official from Misamis in Mindanao, was killed in front of her daughter on March 10. Gandinao testified about her father-in-law’s death in February.
The unabated political killings in the country, which human rights groups say have claimed more than 830 lives since 2001, have attracted international concern. Aside from the UN, the United States Congress and the European Union have offered to help solve the problem.
On Tuesday, Quisumbing said Alston’s preliminary report to the UNHRC is unlikely to endanger the Philippines’ standing in the Council, much less result in a sanction, or lead to cutbacks in aid.
While Alston’s report does not carry an executive weight, many recognize the moral effect it has. Alston is expected to submit a final report on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in June.
JOINT SSN-PATH REACTION TO PROF. PHILIP ALSTON'S PHILIPPINE MISSION PRESS STATEMENT OF 21 FEBRUARY 2007
Greetings of Peace, Truth, Justice and Healing! We acknowledge the belatedness of this reaction but wish to convey it just the same because of what we think, believe and feel are important points and angles to consider in the preparation of Notes and especially the Final Report of UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston on his mission to the Philippines last 11-21 February 2007 to inquire into the "political killings" or extrajudicial executions (EJE) here in recent years. In this regard, we wish to hereunder directly address Prof. Alston on his final mission day Press Statement of 21 February 2007.
While your 10-day mission capped by your Press Statement has been the much needed "tipping point" indeed for deeper reflection and more effective action on the politically-motivated EJE in the Philippines in recent years, we feel that your Press Statement, or the various interpretations and propaganda (yes, that word again) around it, have not given due attention or treatment to the EJEs also perpetrated by non-state armed groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People's Army (NPA).
It may help to place things in perspective if we add to the typology in your Press Statement. The current EJE issue in the Philippines swirls around the facts and propaganda involving at least three types of EJE with different sets of victims of human rights violations:
1. state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, esp. killings of legal Left activists like disproportionately those of Bayan Muna party-list group
2. non-state (rebel) EJE, mainly NPA liquidations or summary executions of civilians outside combat e.g. civilian informers or spies, criminal "bad elements" like rapists and cattle rustlers, policemen who do not have combat duties but are killed for their weapons, "despotic" landlords and "abusive" local officials
3. the CPP-NPA internal purges of many of its own members suspected of being military "deep penetration agents" in the 1980s (which has been PATH's advocacy issue as victims, survivors and relatives)
The first type of current EJE, i.e. state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, has called for and gotten the most attention, including occasioning your mission. As you said, there may be an inevitable propaganda element but it does not, did not, destroy the credibility of the information and allegations. Instead of acknowledging some military involvement in this, as you have called for, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has gone into denial mode and in the process has pointed to the second type of current EJE, i.e. NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat. To bolster this theory, the AFP further points to the third type of EJE which happened about 20 or so years ago, the CPP-NPA internal purges.
But the fact that the AFP has given the second and third type of EJE a propaganda dimension, to deflect its responsibility for the first type of EJE, does not, in itself, to pursue your logic, destroy the credibility of the information and allegations. We are talking here about three types of EJE, and each type must be given its just due. The AFP is mistakenly saying that the first type of EJE is actually the second or third type. No, these three types each have their basically distinct sets of victims, although the second and third types are both non-state or rebel-perpetrated EJE.
In the same way that you did not consider the surfacing by the AFP of two listed victims as sufficient to discredit the vast number of remaining allegations of state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE of legal Left activists, perhaps you should not also take as authoritative Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel's clearly off-the-cuff/spur-of-the-moment (without apparent solid evidentiary basis) estimate that not more than the 10% of the total killings can be attributed to the NPA. That may be true for the first type of EJE but certainly not for the second type. The 1,227 figure cited by the AFP pertains to the second type of EJE and is different from the 800+ figure cited by Karapatan which pertains to the first type.
Of course, the AFP information and allegations on 1,227 NPA killings should also be subjected to tests of credibility. But in fairness, they should not be almost outrightly dismissed just because "The evidence offered by the military in support of this [purge] theory is especially unconvincing." Even if your mission's whole 10 days in the Philippines had focused on the 1,227 killings cited by the AFP, that amount of days was simply not enough to properly evaluate whatever evidence pertaining to that amount of reported killings, on top of the 800+ killings cited by Karapatan. Again, there must be no mixing up of or confusion about the three types of EJE as outlined above.
NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat have been an ongoing reality of its protracted people's war, just as killings of legal Left activists have become a reality of recent prominence in the wake of the state's current counter-insurgency strategy. Any inquiry into the current EJE issue in the Philippines should be informed by this local context of an internal armed conflict which involves two sides, state and non-state, but which does not of course justify violations of human rights and the laws of war.
The reality of NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat has in fact been inquired into, documented and reported on internationally at least twice in the past. One is in a section (as a contextual backdrop) in the 1988 book by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (New York) entitled Vigilantes in the Philippines: A Threat to Democratic Rule. Another is in significant parts of the 1990 book by the Asia Watch Committee of Human Rights Watch (New York) entitled The Philippines: Violations of the Laws of War by Both Sides. We believe that such both-sided treatment (esp. in the latter book) which corresponds to reality and provides fairness to all will also make acknowledgement by those concerned, e.g. the AFP leadership, more forthcoming.
The AFP's propaganda reliance on figures and trends relating to the CPP-NPA purges in the 1980s should not also in itself destroy the credibility of PATH's lonely advocacy on this which pre-dated the current EJE issue in the Philippines. The embroilment of the CPP-NPA purges issue in the current EJE issue should be seen as an opportunity to more properly and effectively address that still hanging purges issue, an EJE issue just like the first and second types. In fact, more than the first two types, the CPP-NPA internal purges of the 19080s involved not just one major kind of human rights violation which is EJE but also several others - torture, enforced disappearances, and even lack of due process and fair trial in the "revolutionary justice" rendered by "people's courts." The factual and evidentiary details of these are found or indicated, among others, in the confidential Preliminary Report submitted in hard copy to your mission c/o the UN Resident Commissioner's Office Philippines last 20 February.
Your evaluation of an alleged CPP/NPA document captured in May 2006 describing Operation Bushfire as a fabrication appears justified. It is an important lead about a possible covert EJE operation and operatives within the AFP because the document was listed among the 14 subversive documents (most seem authentic) captured in an apparently normal and official "After Special Operation Report" of the 76th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. How did this fabricated document get there (among other authentic CPP/NPA documents and into an official Army report)?
The main burden in issues of this sort will always be with the state, whether it was the Marcos dictatorship or the more democratic regimes which followed up to the present. The international human rights regime is also historically occasioned and suited to respond to state tyranny. But lest the slaves or rebels of today be the oppressors or tyrants of tomorrow, recent experience and realities have shown that international human rights regime must address too, and address more effectively than it has, the non-state dimension of human rights violations.
Your Press Statement speaks of the need and challenge to restore the various accountability mechanisms that have been put in place over the years but many of which have been drained of their force in recent years. Still, all such accountability mechanisms, whether domestic or international, are largely state-oriented mechanisms. There are hardly any accountability mechanisms that deal more suitably and effectively with the non-state armed group violators of human rights. We hope that your Final Report will help develop the also needed work on this front. Thank you.
Quezon City, Philippines, 26 March 2007.
(SIGNED) SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR., Esq. A.B. History (UP), LL.B. (UNC), LL.M. (Melb) Regional Focal Point for Asia South-South Network (SSN) for Non-State Armed Group Engagement
(SIGNED) ROGEL M. NAVARRO Chairperson Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH)
NSC chief Norberto Gonzales calls on Satur Ocampo to give up and face charges
THE Philippine National Police (PNP) on Sunday is seeking the help of the international police community for the immediate arrest of exiled Filipino communist leader, Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
Sison, who has been living in self-exile in the Netherlands, has been charged anew by local authorities with robbery and murder of Senior Insp. Alberto Montecalvo, police chief of Pio V. Corpuz, Masbate, last Friday.
The PNP chief, Director General Oscar Calderon, said in a statement that the National Police would ask the International Police Organization (International) to issue a red notice for Sison.
“An Interpol red notice is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today based on a lawful arrest order against a person who is wanted for prosecution,” Calderon said in the statement.
A red notice is a listing of wanted persons the Interpol circulates to its member-countries in which persons on the list are place on lookout list by foreign police agencies.
“Persons listed on the red notice are wanted by national jurisdictions and the Interpol’s role is to assist the national police forces in identifying or locating these persons with a view to arresting and/or having them deported,” said Calderon.
He added that they are also seeking the same alert notice for Sison’s co-respondents in the murder-robbery case who might have fled abroad and were also covered by a warrant of arrest.
Charged along with Sison before the Masbate Prosecutor’s Office are Rogelio Sison, alias “Ka Randy”; Dindo Masanta, alias “Ka Buddy”; and several other NPA members.
Sison, along with party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, was also subject of warrant of arrest issued by a Leyte Regional Trial Court Branch 18.
The court issued the warrant of arrest for multiple charges in connection with the murder of suspected government spies in the communist underground movement in Leyte.
Government recovered 67 “skeletal remains” of communist purging in August 2006 in a shallow mass grave in Barangay Kaulisihan, a remote village in Inopacan town.
Former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels led government troops to the grave site and said that the mass murders were carried out based on orders from the communist central committee, which was then headed by Sison and Ocampo.
For his part, National Security Council Adviser Norberto Gonzales on Sunday called on Rep. Satur Ocampo to come out and face the charges and “let the court decide.” He explained that the government’s intensified legal campaign against local communist leaders is not just aimed at eliminating personalities identified with the CPP-NPA. “We want them to denounce armed rebellion and be honest in doing so,” he said.
While he expressed dismay that Ocampo is going to jail for the case of mass murder and not the rebellion case he filed in 2006, he said the multiple murder charges was filed by the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which he established as national security chief.
Meanwhile, the council of leaders of Peace Advocates Truth, Justice and Healing (PATH) issued a statement on Saturday critical of what they called “politicizing the purges.” The statement came following reports that a warrant of arrest was issued against Rep. Satur Ocampo for his participation in the CPP-NPA purges.
“While the victims of the purges have long sought a just resolution to the issue and accountability from the perpetrators, the timing and manner of the government’s brand of ‘justice’ are inappropriate,” said the statement. “Its politically biased intent itself may compromise the legitimacy of the purge victims’ cause. We fear that the hate and paranoia that drive the government and its agencies to go against the leadership of CPP-NPA and Bayan Muna is of the same variety as the hate and paranoia that we have suffered from in the past and continue to rally against to this day.”
The President and rep. Satur Ocampo back in their happier days together
By Paolo Romero The Philippine Star 03/19/2007
The government will ask the United Nations to investigate mass killings allegedly staged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) following reports of mass graves discovered in different parts of the country, MalacaÒang officials said yesterday.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales issued the statements in separate interviews after the Arroyo administration came under fire from the United States Senate, which began last week an inquiry into the killings of hundreds of leftist political activists and journalists since 2001.
"The process is ongoing for these cases of mass murder and bloody purges of the CPP-NPA to be filed with the appropriate international bodies," Gonzales told The STAR. "These are crimes against humanity we are talking about."
The Palace officials also chided party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo for being "callous" and "insensitive" to the families of the victims of the murders, which he allegedly masterminded, for claiming that his arrest would be favorable to the electoral campaign for seats in Congress of the left-leaning party-list group Bayan Muna.
They also vowed to oppose efforts by some leftist congressmen to have Ocampo placed under their custody.
Authorities earlier said bloody purges in the communist rebel movement that began since the late 1980s claimed the lives of tens of thousands suspected to be military deep penetration agents under various campaigns such as "Kampanyang Ahos" and "Oplan Zombie."
Gonzales said more suspected mass graves are being uncovered in different parts of the country, including some in rebel-infested Samar island and in Leyte where one, containing 67 skeletal remains, had been dug up and used as evidence to charge and arrest Ocampo.
"Some of the graves uncovered had relatively fresh remains on top of much older ones, indicating that the killings were done in waves using same burial sites," Gonzales said.
Once fully accounted for, the mass graves would be used as evidence against CPP-NPA leaders for action by the United Nations, he said.
He maintained Ocampo’s arrest had nothing to do with elections as the case against him was built after almost a year of investigations and evidence-gathering.
He said some of the forensic studies, including DNA-testing of the remains, which is matched to living relatives, have been done with the help of foreign experts. The government earlier sought the help of the international community for forensic expertise to investigate the spate of killings.
"I hope he stops politicizing the case and using it to benefit his bid to be elected. He even had the gall to say that the gravesite was faked when we have the evidence. This is very insulting and exploitative, especially on the part of the victims, who have pinpointed him as the one who ordered the killings," Gonzales said.
Ermita revealed out of the 67 skeletal remains uncovered in Leyte, 15 have been positively identified and matched to living relatives that included former NPA rebels who were able to escape the bloody purge.
"A crime is a crime is a crime, so the long arm of the law finally caught up with him and he’s trying to take advantage of it," Ermita said as he chided Ocampo for the "callous" statement regarding the impact of the arrest on his campaign.
"I’m not sure if his arrest would really translate to votes but what the people know is that he is charged with a crime and he is the one behind bars," he added.
He also reminded leftist party-list groups to renounce and stop supporting the communist insurgency if they want to stop snowballing moves to revive Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Law that legalized the communist movement.
Ermita, who pushed for the repeal of RA 1700 in the mid-1990s as a lawmaker, pointed out that legalizing communism does not mean that communist-led rebellion is also legal.
Earlier, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, head of the US Senate Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the Arroyo administration must be held responsible for failing to stop the spate of unexplained killings and hinted that the much-needed US aid to the Philippines be tied to the human rights situation in the country.
Satur Ocampo finds ally in TEAM Unity’s Senator Arroyo
Joker Arroyo with CPP founder Jose Maria Sison in his subversion trial in the days of Martial Law
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez INQUIRER.net Last updated 09:03pm (Mla time) 03/09/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- Beleaguered Bayan Muna (People First) Representative Satur Ocampo has found an ally in Senator Joker Arroyo, who criticized the government for reviving old cases against the militant lawmaker and Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran.
In a statement, Arroyo said there was something "grievously wrong" about the standing warrant of arrest against Ocampo and the continued detention of Beltran at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City for crimes allegedly committed during the martial law years or before the first EDSA uprising in 1986.
"The Armed Services must re-think its position," said Senator Arroyo, a candidate of the administration’s TEAM Unity ticket.
"It has a responsibility to protect the State and the people from current elements that would want to subvert its authority; at the same time, it has also a duty to adhere to established government policy that what is past is past, otherwise, there will be no stability in government policy," he said.
A warrant of arrest has been issued against Ocampo for his alleged involvement in the purging of his comrades during the martial law years.
Ocampo was formerly spokesman of the National Democratic Front, the political front of the communists.
The Communist Party of the Philippines had ordered the purging of rebels suspected of being deep penetration agents of the Marcos government.
Senator Arroyo said past presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos had made policy positions designed to "put to rest the past adventurisms of the Left and Right."
"The Armed services must restrain itself from digging into the past, which was intended to be buried by past administrations," he said.
Arroyo was a human rights lawyer under the Marcos regime. He served as executive secretary during the Aquino administration.
When Aquino came to power, Arroyo said Proclamation No. 2, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which had been blamed for numerous human rights violations, had been lifted.
"That operated to free all political prisoners who were incarcerated in various military stockades. That amounted to a policy statement that those who were arrested and detained for going against the martial law authorities were free for so long as this time they did not go against the present [Aquino] government," he said.
When Ramos came to power, Arroyo said the former president certified a law repealing the Anti-Subversion Act, which not only benefited the Left but the rightist elements who rebelled against the Aquino administration, including then Colonel Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan.
"That even enabled the detained Gringo Honasan to run and win a seat in the Senate," he said.
Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH) 45 Matimtiman St., cor. Magiting St., Teachers' Village East Quezon City 1101, Philippines Tel. No: (632) 921-8049 Telefax: (632) 926-2893
You can also donate to PATH by clicking on the ads below
The book about the CPP-NPA Purges
"Bobby Garcia provides a riveting account of the Communist Party of the Philippines' "killing fields" and situates it within the context of a revolutionary movement that was nobly motivated but also tragically flawed. To Suffer Thy Comrades goes beyond Garcia's narrative of his and other survivors' harrowing experiences and explains why the purges took place, how both torturers and victims coped and made sense of their plight, and how they survived in the aftermath of the purge. The book sheds light on the darkest and deepest secrets of the revolutionary movement and provides insights that are useful now that the communists are negotiating peace with the government" - SHEILA CORONEL, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
"...Bobby Garcia had the courage to write about the 'killing fields' despite some people's efforts to dissuade him. Bobby was one of its victims -- he was 21 when his entire future was nearly taken away from him -- who was lucky enough to survive. And who is even luckier to retain a huge sense of humor and equanimity, even when talking about his ordeal, at least with friends. His book is called "To Suffer Thy Comrades"...It is certainly not something that will set your mind at rest. But read it anyway. Its virtue is to be found in that biblical observation, 'The truth shall set you free.' - CONRADO DE QUIROS, Philippine Daily Inquirer