By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Human rights group Karapatan released its 2010 year-end report on the human rights situation in the Philippines on December 1.
With one activist becoming a victim of extrajudicial killing every week, the group said, there has been no real change under the new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Karapatan noted that the number of victims of extrajudicial killings, now numbering 20 under Aquino, has surpassed former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s record during her last six months in office.
Since Aquino took office on June 30, there have been two victims of enforced disappearance, 16 victims of torture, 23 victims of arbitrary arrest and detention and almost 900 victims of forced evacuation.The statistics, Karapatan said, belie claims that the Aquino government is committed to rendering justice and upholding human rights.
“Contrary to his promised change and daang matuwid (straight or righteous path), Aquino did not pursue justice for the victims and is even adding more to the already long list. His statement that ‘cases of extrajudicial killings need to be solved, not just identify the perpetrators but have them captured and sent to jail’ is fast becoming an empty forgotten promise as killings continue without let up. In fact, perpetrators have become more atrocious and impunity is worsening,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairwoman.
In his inaugural speech, Aquino said: “When we allow crimes to go unpunished, we give consent to their occurring over and over again.”
But to this day, there have been no convictions on cases of extrajudicial killings under his watch. Instead, he extended the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), deemed as the bloodiest counterinsurgency program ever implemented by the Philippine government.
Most of the victims of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration are from regions that have been branded as priority areas of the OBL. The Bicol region has 7 victims while the Southern Tagalog has 5 victims. Both regions also had the highest death toll under the nine-year reign of Arroyo.
The OBL and the new counterinsurgency plan being crafted by the security cabinet of the Aquino government is patterned after the 2009 United States Counterinsurgency Guide (COIN), according to Karapatan.
In his memorandum order no. 6 dated Oct. 21, Aquino directed the National Security Adviser/National Security Council Director to “spearhead the formulation of the National Security Policy (NSP) and National Security Strategy (NSS) for 2010-2016.” The NSP’s four elements are similar to the U.S. COIN Guide.
“Aquino’s daang matuwid has been reduced to a populist line to divert the people’s attention from the inability of his government to achieve any noteworthy gain that can foreshadow any significant change in any aspect of our society especially human rights,” said Enriquez. “This early, Aquino’s daang matuwid has become a U.S. inspired path that is increasingly being marked by the blood of the victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, forced displacement and other violations of human rights.”
(To be concluded.)