Greetings of peace! For the first time, human rights defenders will commemorate the International Day to End Impunity. November 23 marks the day when one of the most brazen display of impunity in recent history occurred: the Ampatuan massacre in 2009 in the Philippines with 58 media people, women relatives and supporters of a gubernatorial candidate, two women lawyers
and those who just happened to be passing by the area where the ambush occurred.
The accused masterminds head a warlord clan which refuses to give even an inch to the possibility of losing the election to an opponent political clan. The accused killers are its henchmen – the police and its private army. Impunity comes from its closeness to then President Gloria Macapagal‐Arroyo, having allegedly delivered the fraudulent million votes to ensure her stay in power.
The change in president does not seem to have any effect on the culture of impunity except its continuance. As of 30 September 2011, there are reported 55 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under the presidency of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino. There could be more unreported cases.
A recent case is the assassination of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, an Italian missionary based in Mindanao (Southern Philippines). He was a vocal critic of militarization thus getting the ire of the military. He was an avid supporter of Lumad (indigenous people) alternative literacy, numeracy and primary schools branded as communist schools by the military. He spoke strongly against the entry of multinational mining corporations in the province and joined the campaign that prevented destructive mining in the area.
The Noynoy Aquino government fails to render justice to victims of human rights violations and their families. No one during his almost one and a half years in office has been prosecuted among the perpetrators of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and military atrocities in the countryside. Like any traditional politician, he has turned his back on his election campaign promises.
There are also 4,224 victims of forced evacuation due to the intense military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in various communities, especially in the rural
Impunity prevails because, while Noynoy Aquino makes pronouncements on advancing human rights, his government continues to pursue the same kind of state terrorism against the people. He extended Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) up to end December 2010. In January 2011 he supposedly launched a new counter‐insurgency program dubbed Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay). But close scrutiny and actual implementation on the ground show that it is but a continuation of OBL cloaked with supposed “respect for human rights,” “peace” and “development.” Combat operations and violence against the people remain to be at the oplan’s core. Its adherence to the U.S. COIN Guide cannot be denied.
The End Impunity Alliance, in cooperation with various organizations such as Karapatan, Bayan, Promotion of Church People’s Concern (PCPR), National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), in its commemoration of the first International Day to End Impunity on November 23, calls for the following:
1.Stop the killings! End impunity now! These are calls addressed to Pres. Noynoy Aquino to take decisive steps to stop extrajudicial killings and to investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations
2. Immediately pull out military troops and stop their encampments in militarized communities. This is necessary to put a stop to various atrocities including harassment and intimidation by government soldiers especially in rural areas far from the reach of media which can make such human rights violations public.
3. Disband all paramilitary and armed civilian volunteer organizations which are “auxiliary forces” of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP). They are military force multipliers which harass, threaten and commit grave human rights violations, as evidenced by the Ampatuan massacre and incidents in many provinces. They are formed or contracted to guard mining concessions, agribusiness plantations and other foreign corporate activities. They serve the local warlords.
4. Stop the vilification campaign against human rights defenders. By maliciously linking social activists to the New People’s Army and branding them as communists
and enemies of the state, the military has made them open targets for “neutralization” (euphemism for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution) and various other forms of human rights violation.
5. Stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of activists and leaders of the democratic movement, and heaping upon them fabricated criminal charges. Release all political prisoners immediately.
6. Scrap Oplan Bayanihan which is a blueprint for state terrorism.
The End Impunity Alliance, Karapatan, Bayan, PCPR, NCCP and CEGP will hold the following activities in the Philippines:
November 22 at 4:00pm, Boys Scouts Circle, Timog Avenue corner Morato, Quezon City
November 23 at 3:00pm, assembly in front of the University of Sto. Tomas, Manila to join the contingent of media organizations led by the Center for Media Freedom and esponsibility and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) for a march‐ rally in Mendiola
We hope to see you there. Our chapters and solidarity groups in other countries are enjoined to hold an activity to stress our demand to Stop the Killings! End Impunity!
Cristina Palabay Jigs Clamor
Convenor, End Impunity Alliance Deputy Secretary General, Karapatan