March 5, 2012
‘AFP denies allegations of human rights violations despite overwhelming evidence’
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is “forever denying” its involvement in the many cases of military surveillance and other forms of human rights violations, as seen in its statement on the harassment of campus journalists, said College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP).
“Remarkably surprising, how the AFP has managed to keep a straight face while claiming innocence. Despite overwhelming evidence, the AFP is still acting like it knows nothing of these violations and that it is trying to protect the Filipino people,” said Pauline Gidget Estella, national deputy secretary general of CEGP, the widest and oldest alliance of student publications nationwide.
Estella, with other officers of CEGP, was trailed by suspected elements of military intelligence last February 26. Two days after the incident, Ma. Luisa Purugganan, another campus journalist, reported that alleged military intelligence personnel went to their house and were asking about her whereabouts.
In a GMANews Online article, the AFP said that it is never their policy to tolerate such cases of surveillance and that the military offices can help the CEGP.
“Based on accounts of eyewitnesses in hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings, surveillance, enforced disappearances and torture, the recurrence of allegations of military involvement cannot be simply dismissed as coincidence. We have a wealth of experience from which we can safely say that the military is involved in the recent incidents of trailing and surveillance on campus journalists,” explained Estella, adding that in cases such as the enforced disappearance of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, there is more than enough basis to establish probable cause.
Estella added that Benjaline Hernandez, former CEGP vice president for Mindanao, was killed by elements of the military while she was on a fact-finding mission in Arakan Valley in 2002.
“In fact, many members of legal progressive organizations have considered trailing and surveillance as part of the job, a common phenomenon, because of the countless times that military and police intelligence personnel have tried to pry into our activities and watched our actions even in our respective homes,” said Estella.
“Does the AFP really expect us to file complaints before their offices? Filing a complaint before the office of the perpetrators of human rights violations that we are exposing? We would just waste our time, given that the AFP cannot even come up with a good alibi and instead denies everything without a convincing explanation,” said Estella.
“If the AFP is really sincere in protecting the Filipino people, then it should make sure that no civilian, journalist, student, or member of progressive organizations will be a victim of human rights violations, especially now that around 2,400 US troops are set to join the Balikatan exercises in the country this April. Of course, we’re not expecting anything from the AFP,” said Estella.###