“..the Aquino administration obviously rewards, instead of punishes, human rights violators such as Gen. [Aurelio] Baladad.” – Justice for the Morong 43 alliance
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – It did not come as a surprise but it is nevertheless enraging.
This is how the Morong 43, their lawyer and human rights group Karapatan described the promotion of Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad.
Baladad, former head of the 202nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, ordered the arrest of 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010. Majority of the Morong 43, who were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, were eventually released.
Baladad, along with other military and police officials, is facing charges of torture, other criminal and administrative cases filed by members of the Morong 43. He is also one of the respondents to the damage suit filed by the health workers. The cases are pending with the Ombudsman, Quezon City Regional Trial Court and the Commission on Human Rights.
According to a report, Baladad will head the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, which holds jurisdiction over Western Visayas.
“It is not surprising at all but it is still very disappointing. This is how the system works,” Dr. Alex Montes, one of the Morong 43, told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview.
In a statement, the Justice for the Morong 43! Justice for All Victims of Human Rights Violations! Alliance said, “..the Aquino administration obviously rewards, instead of punishes, human rights violators such as Gen. Baladad.”
Last year, another general involved in the arrest and torture of the Morong 43 Major General Jorge Segovia, former commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, was promoted to lieutenant-general. He assumed the post of commanding officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
Montes filed an opposition to Segovia’s promotion, citing pending cases filed against the latter.
“The Commission on Appointments scheduled a public hearing but we were told that it is unlikely that Segovia’s promotion would be stopped. The process was just ministerial,” Montes said.
“These military officers involved in human rights cases are emboldened by the promotion they get,” Montes added.
The doctor lamented how the cases they filed against the perpetrators are barely moving.
In a statement, Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said that the appointment of Baladad “is an exemplary display of impunity under the Aquino government.”
“By all indications, the Aquino government is placing known human rights violators and Gloria Arroyo’s military henchmen such as Baladad and even ISAFP [Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] Chief Gen. Eduardo Año to Noynoy Aquino’s first line of defense against the people’s escalating discontent,” Palabay said.
Año is implicated in the enforced disappearance of peasant-activist Jonas Burgos. Like Baladad, Año is facing a string of charges, in particular, arbitrary detention and possibly murder.
“Well, these are getting routinary and does not surprise us anymore. What can you expect from a hypocritical government and a remorseless military institution?” Edre Olalia, lawyer for the Morong 43 and secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) told Bulatlat.com in a message.
“A string of odious rights violations cases still pending does not even invite a modicum of decency, sensitivity and propriety. It is a virtual pat on the back,” Olalia added.
Karapatan deemed Baladad’s appointment as an omen of terror.
“Baladad’s assignment at the 3rd IDPA indicates the heightening of terror versus the people through Oplan Bayanihan,” Palabay said explaining that Negros, which is part of Western Visayas, is one of the provinces declared by the military as among the first level priorities of the said counter-insurgency campaign.
According to Karapatan’s documentation, nine out of 142 cases of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan happened in Western Visayas, and four out of 16 enforced disappearances are from Negros alone.
The group filed an opposition to the promotion of Baladad as brigadier general last year. He has been since assigned as commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Division PA in Bicol Region, also a priority area of Oplan Bayanihan, and as deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“… with this appointment and promotions of rights violators, the Filipino nation is to expect more human rights violations under the Noynoy Aquino administration,” Palabay said.
Montes said they are not giving up. “We will not stop. The Filipino people can see clearly how bad the system is.”