Civil society calls for end to killings, human rights violations

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014


TORTURE and enforced disappearances of activists by state security agents and private militias have severely escalated in recent months in the Philippines, said global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, and Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.

“We are alarmed at attacks on activists and members of the political opposition in the Philippines. Since taking office in June 2010, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has done little to address serious violations of human rights in the country despite promises made during his election campaign,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

From July 2010 to March 2014, Karapatan has documented cases of 192 victims of extrajudicial killings, 21 cases of enforced disappearance, 94 of torture and 631 of illegal arrests and detention.

Twenty-six journalists have also been reportedly murdered since President Aquino took office, making the Philippines an extremely dangerous environment for the media.

The government’s counter-insurgency programme, Oplan Bayanihan, strongly opposed by civil society groups, has resulted in massive human rights violations in the Philippines, the group said, citing that in the first quarter of 2014 alone, Karapatan has recorded 21 victims of extrajudicial killings and 23 victims of frustrated killings.

The group also claimed that indigenous communities have faced the brunt of brutal attacks for defending their ancestral lands from the intrusion of mining corporations and agri-business plantations.

Activists and civil society leaders Freddie “Fermin” Ligiw, Edgar “Eddie” Ligiw and Licuben Ligiw were killed, allegedly by members of the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on March 3, 2014. All three members from the same family were members of the Binongans (Tingguian) tribe.

On March 25, William Bugatti, a regional Council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan, was killed apparently in retaliation for his activities towards promoting and defending human rights.

In the same month, peace consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria Tiamzon were detained by the security forces in breach of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

“Conflicts cannot be resolved through militaristic approaches,” said Mandeep Tiwana, head of Policy and Research at CIVICUS. “The Philippines government needs to engage with civil society groups to address the root causes of the conflict if it wants to achieve lasting peace.”

CIVICUS and Karapatan urged the Philippines government to: rescind their counter-insurgency programme Oplan Bayanihan, resume the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and respect the previous agreements between the Government of the Philippines and the NDFP by releasing peace consultants protected by the Jasig and all political prisoners. (PR)

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