By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA N. QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — “It is true. Oplan Bayanihan has succeeded; it has succeeded in violating human rights.”
This was the statement of Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) secretary general Jude Baggo during a press conference on the state of human rights in the region, December 7.
Baggo said human right violations perpetrated by soldiers run counter to the claims of the Aquino administration and Armed Forces of the Philippines that Oplan Bayanihan is a “peace and development” program. Oplan Bayanihan is the counterinsurgency program of the administration.
“There is no peace in the region when communities are militarized, women are raped, children are used as guides in military operations, foreign companies plunder the region’s resources, and human rights and development workers are under threat,” Baggo said.
According to the CHRA yearend report, soldiers have encamped in Cordillera communities — inside houses, barangay halls and schools. Among the communities where soldiers have stationed are Poswoy and Daongan in Kalinga; Balbalan and Balayangon in Pinukpuk; Natonin and Paracelis in Mountain Province; Tinoc in Ifugao and some communities in Abra.
The CHRA reported that apart from endangering civilians and using them as human shields, soldiers engaged in anti-social activities such as drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana, gambling and showing pornographic films.
In Gumhang, Tinoc, Ifugao, the CHRA documented cases of confiscation of farm tools, destruction of agricultural crops, divestment of property, illegal search, violations of domicile, harassment and political vilification. The victims pointed to the soldiers of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army as perpetrators.
The report cited the alleged rape committed by Captain Danilo Lalin of the 86th IBPA against two minors of Mankayan, Benguet sometime last February. Lalin reportedly offered money in an attempt to settle with the victims’ families but the families and village officials rejected his offer. Lalin remains under the army’s custody and was not dismissed from service.
The CHRA report also cited the political vilification against members and leaders of legitimate peoples organizations, development and human rights workers. They are labeled as communists and supporters or members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“What is wrong with being a communist? Is that a license to deny the person the rule of law? If you are a snatcher or a thief does it mean you deserve to die? Our constitution provides for due process and rule of law. How can there be peace when the state’s security forces are the ones violating the people’s rights enshrined in the constitution?” Baggo said.
Baggo added that it is impossible to have peace with the continuing culture of impunity. He reiterated that for as long as perpetrators are not being brought to justice, rights violations will continue.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Emmi de Jesus, who is also a member of the House Committee of Human Rights, said the Aquino administration did not just fail to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations during the past administration but worse, allowed the proliferation of rights violations under his term.
De Jesus disclosed that during the committee hearings on human rights, the military’s top brass consistently claimed that human rights violations no longer exist and that their troops respect human rights but reports of human rights groups and complaints from victims prove otherwise.
De Jesus said the types of human rights violations in the Cordillera region are similar to other regions. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by )