Archive for the ‘Commission on Human Rights’ Category

Davao mayor denies the existence of a death squad blamed for more than 800 murders

March 31, 2009

It’s appalling to learn that since 1998, there are about 800 deaths which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) attributes to death squads in Davao City. Leila de Lima, chairman of CHR says the unsolved killings are the most audacious violations of human rights prompting an inquiry over the “Davao Death Squad” aka DDS.

There have been reports that killers aren’t afraid of being identified for no one responsible for the hundreds who were killed have been prosecuted. The CHR chief is met with a challenge from Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who denies that death squad exists in his jurisdiction. He blames the deaths to drug traders and gang wars. The mayor ostensibly challenges the CHR to come up with evidence that his government is involved in vigilante killings.

“The Coalition Against Extrajudicial Summary Executions (CASE), composed of rights groups, and religious and concerned individuals, has tallied 814 vigilante-style executions from 1998 to February this year. More killings happened in the city this month. Many of the victims were reported to have had criminal records.”—-Inquirer (03/31/09, Tupas, JM)

Judge Isaac Robillo, the executive judge of the Regional Trial Court of Davao believes DDS exists and is condoned by a “bigger person,” —otherwise, the killings wouldn’t go on for such a long time with unrestrained brazenness.

The Rape & Slay of Rebelyn Pitao

It is said 185 and 45 of the victims are young adults and children respectively—an ignominious record for a place that prides itself of peace and order. The most recent is the brutal slaying of 20-year old teacher Rebelyn Pitao, the daughter of a communist New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao.

Unidentified men snatched Rebelyn earlier this month while she was on her way home. The following day, she was found dead. Her body disclosed signs of torture and rape. Her father and Duterte tagged the military as responsible for her death.

The huge number of unsolved deaths is mind-boggling. Since 1998, only one case of summary execution has been filed and the public seems comfortable with such an astounding record. By death squad or not, if truly murders happen in the city how nothing has been done for 20 years to stop the lawless killings? De Lima rightfully asks the public to speak out against the immoral practice of taking the life of human beings without judicial process. About 16% of those killed in Davao are between 13 to 17 years old.

The defensive Mayor Duterte is reputedly overbearing in dealing with petty criminals in Davao. If he has nothing to do with the murders, why doesn’t he take the lead to probe the deaths so that justice can be served? Instead of showing lack of cooperation, isn’t it good to work with the CHR to get into the bottom of the crimes? Vigilante killings destroy the public reliance to the rule of law. (Photo Credits: Keith Bacongco; Barryohaylan)=0=

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GMA’s SONA & Her 6,000 Policemen

July 15, 2008

“Super Task Force Kapayapaan” (Peace) is the military’s grand plan for Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 30, 2008. Part of the event’s preparation is a human rights seminar for the 6,000 police officers who’ll keep the peace and order of Manila during the president’s speech.

Although there’s no serious threat of turbulence, the military couldn’t take any chances. The government is poised to mobilize a gargantuan display of security: a good number of men summoned from other regions of the country, to key points of the metropolis— a move only GMA and her supporters could exactly explain why.

But one can guess what’s in the poor people’s mind. These security forces and their intimidating gears will guard protest landmarks of the past such as the Batasan Pambansa, EDSA Shrine, Legarda, Bustillos, J.P Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Liwasang Bonifacio, Mediola Bridge, Malacanang Palace, and the US Embassy. The presence of 6,000 troops acts both ways— as protection and intimidation. As the chance of mayhem rises with discontent, the need to show military force ever increases.

The country struggles to show its commitment to protect people’s freedom in the wake of economic uncertainty, unresolved killings and unchecked human rights violations. In near oblivion, the sensational Kuratong Baleleng case remained a bloody crime puzzle since 1995. Amidst denials, police officers were accused of the brutal killing of 11 suspected thieves. There was the unsolved “rub-out” of 3 RCBC bank “robbers” in Tanauan, Batangas in May, 2008.

The police Traffic Management Group killed three suspected car robbers in an alleged shoot-out in Ortigas in 2005. Bubby Dacer’s family hadn’t stopped pointing on Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the then chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission thought to be the brains behind the murder.

The US Department of State found in 1999 that the Filipino security forces were responsible for extra-judicial killings, torture, violence, disappearances, intimidations, and abusive arrests. The Commission of Human Rights (CHR) chief Leila de Lima summed up the outrageous record saying, ”the police is the #1 violator of human rights.” She recognized the importance of an unrelenting campaign against injustice when she affirmed the role of CHR:

“For as long as necessary, we will continue to issue these statements on violations specific to law enforcement agents, such as illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, EJKs (extra-judicial killings) and even the indiscriminate parading of suspects to the media, a practice which, I must note with much chagrin, has not stopped.” Inquirer (07/15/08, Papa, A)

Sadly, the poor record of human rights isn’t the only issue the Filipinos must fight for. With Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo delivering SONA, the public doesn’t expect anything decisively new to bring relief to their problems. Instead, the people anticipate her repeat appeals for calm and resilience, beside her trusted military defenders, in the midst of worsening economic conditions.

The public feels unease and disappointment for the promised “strong republic” which GMA hasn’t delivered. The Filipinos seem feeble and tired in their complaints. They’re busy lining up for rice, seeking work, and dreaming where they would go in case the worst of the tempest come. In contrast to the costly SONA the government is preparing for, the people are feeling the pinch of spending for mass actions, protests, and rallies—many may not even have cash to buy gasoline for a ride to EDSA.

The burgeoning hardness of the day can only make them stretch their optimism. They hope the window of opportunity to solve their problems hasn’t been totally shut tight. =0=