Councilors argue over human rights violations-A A +A
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
THE Davao City Council has become a battle ground for lawyers arguing for at least an hour over varied views on what constitutes human rights violation.
The issue stemmed from a complaint filed by four wives of members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Pandaitan in Paquibato District, Davao City, accusing government soldiers stationed in the area of harassing them and telling them to persuade their husbands to surrender.
In a supposedly brief privilege speech of Councilor Karlo Bello, who chairs the City Council committee on human rights, he said the situation has become more common especially in the hinterland barangays of Davao City.
On Tuesday, four wives and other residents who were all the way from various villages in Paquibato District went to Bello's office for assistance.
But after the wives and the group's representatives have spoken before the city councilors, the Council was confronted with the dilemma on what will be the next step and what the City Council, as a legislative body, can do.
The disagreement started when Bello moved to refer the item to several committees for appropriate action.
Councilor Melchor Quitain, however, stood up and asked for specific solutions that the Council can do aside from referring the item to those committees and to specify what those committees can do to solve the problems.
When the group attested that their complaint was already submitted to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Quitain said, based on the affidavits of the complainants, there seems to be no human rights violations committed by the soldiers.
Quitain was specifically referring to the affidavits of complaint by Marissa Alampatan and Analin Tesoro, two of the four wives who claimed of being harassed by the military.
Quitain also raised certain paragraphs on Tesoro's affidavit that a government soldier went to her house and bring in biscuits for her grandchildren.
Generally, Quitain, who is a veteran lawyer, said based on the affidavits of the complainants, there were no violations committed by the military.
"There were no specific details here showing that the military harassed these women. The act of harassment is not clear and the act of inviting a person (for questioning) does not constitute harassment," Quitain said.
Councilor Emmanuel Galicia Sr., a prosecutor for several decades, said for his part that the claims of the complainants are not enough basis to accuse the military of human rights violations.
But this definition of harassment did not sit well with Bello.
Bello, who is also a lawyer by profession, said all people have the right to live a normal and peaceful life as provided for by the Constitution and international humanitarian laws. Any act that would lead to the disruption to this "peaceful and normal life" constitutes human rights violation.
Bello said he wanted other committees to jointly work on this matter since this involves a serious concern.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 17, 2012.