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Karapatan says GMA launched a “campaign of terror” in 2006

Written by Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/05 December) –A human rights group claimed that 2006 is the worst year for human rights since 1986 with President Arroyo, backed up by the United States government, launching a “campaign of terror in an effort to desperately cling to power.”

In a press statement, the Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) Southern Mindanao chapter based in Davao City, tagged President Arroyo as the person responsible for the most number of human rights violations in the country. “The President, backed up by the United States government, launched a campaign of terror in an effort to desperately cling to power,” it said.

The group likened Arroyo’s declaration of the “State of National Emergency” through Presidential Proclamation 1017 (PP 1017) on February this year to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation 1081 which ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to suppress all forms of lawless violence, including acts of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all decrees, orders, and regulations.

“While the Arroyo government did not specify the powers vested in the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), it gave them the go signal to attack the Filipino people’s rights,” the group stressed. PP 1017, according to the press statement, violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The Philippine National Police (PNP) raided the office of the Daily Tribune during the early morning of February 25, it said. “It also attempted to issue media guidelines and warned media organizations that the police will be monitoring broadcasts and publications,” a move the media protested. Violent dispersals of rallies were justified by the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) policy issued by the President on September 21, 2005, the 32nd anniversary of the imposition of Martial Law. The brunt of the “campaign of terror,” it said, was directed against left-leaning or militant individuals and groups. At the start of the year, the Arroyo government, through its Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, came up with an enhanced National Internal Security Plan (NISP). The enhanced NISP intensified the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya which aims to defeat insurgency by the end of Arroyo’s term.

In June 2006, the Arroyo government allotted an additional P1 billion for counterinsurgency. Karapatan said the campaign is directed not only against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group. “but it also targets the Left, which the AFP classifies as sectoral front organizations.”

Immediately after the declaration of a state of national emergency, the Arroyo government attempted to arrest progressive party-list representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Women’s Party. They, together with prominent personalities of these parties, were falsely charged with rebellion on the basis of fabricated evidences and statements of military assets.

Extrajudicial killings and abductions continue to escalate, averaging three political killings per week. Karapatan documented 185 political killings from January to November this year. The number of victims of enforced disappearances this year reached 93, the highest in the six-year presidency of Arroyo. From January 21, 2001 to November, 2006, the number of victims of political killings has reached 797. In Southern Mindanao, there were 76 victims of extrajudicial killings from January 2001 to November 2006.

After the verdict on Subic rape case

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) deemed the verdict on the Subic rape case involving four US Marines a partial victory not only for the rape victim, Nicole, but also for the Filipino people. The group likewise reiterated its demand to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The VFA has allowed thousands of US troops to freely enter the country, stay indefinitely and leave whenever they want setting the conditions for human rights abuses and crimes against the Filipino people.

Makati Judge Benjamin Pozon sentenced Lance Corporal Daniel Smith guilty of raping Nicole but the court acquitted Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier for “lack of evidence.”

Dr. Carol Araullo, Bayan chairperson said, “We commend Judge Pozon for taking the side of justice, Nicole, and the Filipino people. At the same time, the acquittal of the three other accused has a lot to do with the lop-sidedness of the VFA and how the Arroyo administration made a mess out of the Subic rape case.”

Araullo explained, “The court handled the Subic rape case under the restrictive provisions of a one-sided agreement. The one-year deadline under the VFA worked against the victim who had the burden of gathering all the material evidence and testimonies of witnesses, including the driver of the van who got away without testifying and without any liabilities whatsoever. In addition, the fact that the US government immediately assumed custody over the accused provided the defense incalculable advantages apart from being an assault on our national sovereignty.”

Araullo said that the Arroyo administration cannot share in the glory of the historic decision since the Arroyo administration did not support Nicole but instead sabotaged her case from start to finish.

Araullo said, “The Department of Foreign Affairs did little, too late in requesting Philippine custody of the accused. The investigation was sloppy and the government prosecutors were lackadaisical if not negligent in securing the testimony of the driver that would have nailed the charge of conspiracy. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales was the most vocal in calling for the downgrading of the case and he publicly castigated the Tarlac fiscal as well as Judge Pozon for disagreeing with him. On the other hand, he refused to look into the victim’s complaint that public prosecutors, Atty. Emilie de los Santos in particular, were bungling the case and engaging in unethical behavior in terms of pushing for an out-of-court settlement.”

Moreover, Araullo said that Smith should immediately be jailed in the National Penitentiary. “This time, it would be utterly outrageous should the Philippine government accede once more to the insistence of the US government to retain custody.” Araullo noted, however, that so far officials have uniformly granted that the US could have custody according to the VFA.

Araullo called on the Congress and Senate to rescind the VFA and ban the further entry of American troops in the country. “Their presence poses many dangers not only to our women but to every Filipino’s security and well being. Their continuous presence reflects the subservience of the Philippine government to the US regime.”###

Filipino women say: Subic rape verdict falls short

Reference: Marisa Mariano
Secretary General, babae San Francisco

babae is insulted and infuriated at the verdict made today, December 4, by Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon of the four U.S. marines who raped a 22-year old Filipina last November 2005. Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was found guilty of rape and sentenced to 40 years in prison while Keith Silkwood, Dominic Duplantis, and Chad Carpentier were fully acquitted. This incomplete justice is another validation of the abusive relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines.

babae maintains the position to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a lopsided agreement that favors the U.S. and compromises Philippine sovereignty. The VFA, which was ratified in 1999, grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges to U.S. troops visiting the country for joint military “exercises” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). It provides that Philippine authorities shall waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon request by U.S. authorities, among other provisions that benefit U.S. troops. The presence of the U.S. military in the Philippines has brought an increased number of cases of American soldiers committing sexual assault against Filipino women and children. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have not been punished for these crimes. Until the VFA is junked, US troops will continue to be present in the Philippines and Nicole will not be their last victim. babae has joined the ranks of women and human rights groups, in the Philippines and internationally, demanding an end to the VFA.

babae is also outraged that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez stated that the U.S. government will be permitted to fund and construct a separate cell with amenities such as air conditioning, a television and a refrigerator inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City for the convicted U.S. marine. This is just another example of the inequality of the VFA and the puppetry of the Philippine government, in which the lives of U.S. servicemen are valued more by the Philippine government than its own citizens. We demand that the convicted be served true justice and receive no preferential treatment.

Not only has Nicole not found the full justice that she deserves, she is also victimized everyday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who continues to serve the interests of the United States. Nicole is not only victimized by the U.S. marines that raped her, she is also under attack by a president who neglects and abuses women by way of the VFA. The GMA Administration, which should have the best interests of its people in mind, is doing just the opposite. President GMA stands idly by as her own people suffer, prioritizing the master/servant relationship between the Philippines and U.S., at the expense of the dignity and respect of women such as Nicole. A president allowing her own women to be prostituted and raped by US military servicemen must be brought to justice. A president who sells out the sovereignty and dignity of the Philippines through the unjust Visiting Forces Agreement must be ousted. There is no pride in this, just shame, and a betrayal of a false president to its people. GMA must be held accountable for her failure in protecting all Filipinos.

Justice for Nicole!
Junk the Visiting Forces Agreement!
End violence against women!
U.S troops out of the Philippines!

US interference

by Carol P. Araullo

Now the cat is out of the bag. Resigned Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz recently revealed, in so many words, that the Arroyo administration contemplated declaring martial law last January in light of intelligence reports of a looming open rebellion in the military cum massive street protests calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster. More telling is Mr. Cruz’ admission that the United States government, through then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and US Director for National Intelligence John Negroponte, explicitly nixed the plan and signaled that the Bush administration would not support such a move.

That Mrs. Arroyo eventually stopped short of declaring martial law but instead settled for the proclamation of a legally ambiguous “state of national emergency,” Presidential Proclamation 1017, last February 24, says a lot about whose word matters with her administration.

To the doubting Thomases out there who insist that we are a bona fide republic and that the US is not in the habit of interfering in the country’s domestic affairs, think again. But one may well ask, isn’t this kind of interference, a good-intentioned and benevolent one? Unfortunately, such is not the track record of the US government’s involvement in the volatile political situation in this country especially at its most critical junctures.

At the turn of the century, the McKinley government deceptively offered assistance to the first Philippine republic under General Emilio Aguinaldo, in the revolution against Spain, only to subjugate and colonize the Filipino nation for the next half century after a bloody war of aggression and occupation. In more recent history, the Nixon government backed then President Ferdinand Marcos when he declared martial law and thereby established a fascist dictatorship. In later years, then Vice President George H. W. Bush praised him for his “adherence to democratic principles” at a time when Mr. Marcos was being universally reviled for his regime’s gross violations of human rights and the wanton plunder of the economy by his favored foreign and domestic business partners. It didn’t take long for the Reagan administration, to drop Mr. Marcos like a hot potato when his authoritarian rule was rapidly coming apart and threatened to drag down as well vital US economic, political and most especially, military, interests.

The lesson is not lost on Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal of advisers. No matter whose administration is at the helm of the US government, it will not allow the strategic and medium-term geopolitical interests of the world’s sole Superpower to be compromised, much more, threatened by the political crises besetting any ruling regime in the Philippines.

The warnings from Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Negroponte were meant to drive home the point: declaring martial law in a desperate bid to shore up Mrs. Arroyo’s hold on power is a risky, messy business that the US considers a serious threat to its own interests. Corollary to this, if Mrs. Arroyo can’t hack it as the dependable and stable US ally, some say puppet, in the Philippines, while maintaining the trappings of a democratic regime, she is in deep trouble and cannot rely on the US to back up a bare-faced, iron-fist rule.

Thus, the Arroyo regime’s resort to PP 1017, not yet an open declaration of martial law but with enough legal verbiage to cloak the regime with “emergency” powers. She used these powers to ban mass demonstrations that she feared would mature into an actual people’s uprising ala “people power”; to preempt the plan of anti-Arroyo military/police officers and men to “withdraw support” and thus nip an outright military/police rebellion in the bud; to illegally arrest and detain her political enemies, especially those she claimed to be behind a so-called “left-right” conspiracy to overthrow her widely perceived illegitimate government; and to clamp down on outspokenly critical and increasingly adversarial mass media establishments that had the propensity to fuel mass discontent and could trigger an explosion of outrage at her unpopular regime.

Thus, Mrs. Arroyo’s renewed declaration of “all-out war against the Left”; that is, against both the armed revolutionary movement and the legal, unarmed democratic mass movement. This has resulted in the extrajudicial killings, attempted killings and enforced disappearances of at least 1,400 activists, their supporters and those who happened to be in the way of the regime’s urban death squads and military campaigns of suppression in the rebellious countryside.

Thus, the unprecedented filing of countless harassment suits against Mrs. Arroyo’s political opponents — from leaders of militant mass organizations to local government officials to legislators to media practitioners to former government bureaucrats.

All these without having to resort to a martial law declaration, as Mrs. Arroyo’s principal foreign backer, the US government, had made clear its preferences, its inclinations and its not-so-benevolent intentions.###

*Published in Business World 1-2 December 2006