AS FAR as the militant group Bayan Muna is concerned, it is House Speaker Prospero Nograles who is a human rights violator, belying the statement of the Speaker in a television program that "he has no blood in his hands."
Citing the alliance between Nograles and retired general Jovito Palparan, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo said the Speaker has now “metamorphosed as among the country’s top human rights violators.”
Recalling the role of Nograles in the May 22, 2009 violent dispersal operation at the gates of Batasan Pambansa of the 54-day Rural People’s Camp-out for Genuine Agrarian Reform and against Charter Change, Ocampo pointed out that 10 peasant activists were seriously injured while scores of other militants were harmed.
The Bayan Muna representative, who is now running for a seat in the Senate, said the demolition of the camp-out and the dispersal of activists were ordered by Nograles and carried out by the House secretary general, House sergeant at arms, and executive director of Legislative Security Bureau.
A formal complaint against Nograles and other House officials was filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
As a result, the CHR issued on May 27, 2009 a resolution that rebuffed Nograles, condemned the violent dispersal, and called on the Congress to open its doors to farmers for genuine agrarian reform.
“Their peaceful assembly at Congress is an exercise of their right to pursue and protect their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations. We not only condemn the violence that characterized the dispersal, but also the show of indifference, or worse, a lack of intestinal fortitude, by the leadership of the House of Representatives towards the desperation and indignation of the farmers whose toil feeds our congressmen and the rest of the Filipino people,” the commission said.
“We amplify the cries of the people dispersed at the gates of Congress. We call on the leadership of the House of Representatives to demonstrate the guarantees of the Constitution for the respect for the role and rights of people’s organizations,” it added.
“At stake in this instance is not only the passage of a law on genuine agrarian reform. The Freedom of Expression and the Right to Peaceful Assembly are infringed as a result. In contrast, the groups have found the Senate to be more open to their pleas and allowed them the democratic space to express their frustration and fear,” the commission said.
The CHR even asked Nograles to “lead by example and call on all the rest of the House membership to become true representatives of the Filipino People and open your doors and let the Farmers' voices resonate in the halls of Congress,” the commission told the Nograles-led House.
Ocampo also bewailed the fact that Nograles has failed miserably in taking up the cudgel in behalf of the marginalized sectors.
“Dapat mas mauunawanan niya na sa kanyang ginawang aksyon ay parang sinusupil niya yung karapatan ng mga maliliit na mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda, (He should understand that what he did is tatamount to suppressing the rights of small farmers and fishermen)” he said.
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Representative Joel Maglungsod rebuffed Nograles for failing to advance human rights and other interests of the people.
He lamented the failure of the House to conduct an internal investigation on the violent dispersal incident despite calls from progressive organizations and party list representatives.
“Usa pud ni sa mga atong gi-kondena, gani dismayado ta bago nag-recess ang Congress niadtong February 5, nag-privilege speech ta sa mga importanteng balaudnon apan sagad niini, natulog lang sa committee level, (It is one of the things we condemned. In fact, before the Congress recessed last February 5, we delivered a privileged speech calling for the passage of important bills that are still pending before the committee level)” he noted.
Maglungsod also said that it is a misnomer to describe the House of Representatives as a ‘House of the People’ when it cannot even claim to have taken up the genuine interests of the ordinary people.
He noted that Nograles’s is the first Speaker in the history of House of Representatives who sanctioned violent dispersal of protesters outside its gate.
Maglungsod was among the congressmen who authored House Resolution No. 1191, a resolution directing the House Committee on Human Rights to investigate the violent dispersal last May 22, 2009 that resulted in the injury of nine (9) farmers and peasant advocates.
The resolution was not acted upon and is still pending with the Committee on Rules since its filing last May 28, 2009. The committee is chaired by Nograles’ chief ally, Majority Leader Arthur Defensor, Sr. (Carlo P. Mallo with PR)