HUMAN rights group Karapatan has expressed apprehension that the counter-insurgency program of the Duterte administration will end up just like the “Oplan Bayanihan” of former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
If President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Oplan Kapayapaan” is a continuum of Oplan Bayanihan, Karapatan said they expect that human rights and international humanitarian law violations will continue, especially in struggling communities and among the poor majority of peasants and workers.
Karapatan said while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) presents the new counterinsurgency strategy as an effective framework, what the AFP conveniently leaves out is that “this framework caused the killings of Lumad and other national minorities and peasants, the forcible evacuation of civilian communities, particularly those tagged as ‘NPA (New People’s Army) supporters,’ and the illegal arrests and detention of activists.”
“The human rights record of the BS Aquino administration is proof of this,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay in a statement.
“Civilians are victimized and the root causes of the armed conflict remain unresolved. If the AFP and state security forces under the Rodrigo Duterte administration will have the same framework and approach of the past regimes and with their fascist and mercenary character, the Filipino people will continue to experience unpeace in communities,” Palabay said.
She noted that during the first six months of the Duterte presidency, there were 19 victims of political killings, two enforced disappearance victims, and illegal arrests continued.
But Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said no human rights abuses had been recorded in its area of responsibility in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.
For the military to act on human rights violations, Martinez said formal complaint should be filed.
“We can only account for the violation if there are filed cases,” he said, otherwise, those reports of abuses will remain as mere allegations and speculations.
“If there are indeed violations, we are encouraging the victims to file formal complaint,” Martinez said.
He said the Oplan Kapayapaan is actually a people-centered campaign based on the plight of the people, with the implementing rules and guidelines being created by the communities that must be complied with by the AFP and all agencies.