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NDFP reminds the military: “We are not subjects to GRP’s authority”

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said it considers it absurd that a “mere government agency,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has filed complaints against its allied organizations before another government agency.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima said it is absurd and preposterous the AFP filed complaints against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as if the revolutionary organizations have become “subject to the authority of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and its agencies.”

De Lima said both the CPP and the NPA belong to the NDFP and the revolutionary movement’s “People’s Democratic Government,” and not to the GRP.

“It is completely stupid and unacceptable for the AFP as mere agency of the GRP to consider the CPP and NPA as mere subjects to the authority of the GRP,” she said.

De Lima pointed out that the CPP and the NPA, as well as 16 other NDFP allied organizations, are at war with the GRP.

“The fact is that there is a civil war between the co-belligerents: the GRP and its agencies on one side; and the People’s Democratic Government, the NDFP, CPP, NPA, other revolutionary forces and the entire Filipino people on the other side,” de Lima said.

Conduct of war

The CHR meanwhile urged both the government and the rebels to respect international humanitarian law (IHL) in the conduct of war as it acknowledged receipt of the cases filed by the AFP on the alleged attacks against civilian properties by the CPP and the NPA since 2010.

“In looking into these cases, the CHR asserts its independent, impartial position in investigating human rights violations, including those committed in the context of armed conflicts. We equally assert our jurisdiction over these cases. International humanitarian law (IHL) covers both State and non-State actors alike,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

The CHR said civilians must be protected from atrocities under the IHL

“While CHR stands firm for the liberty of people to believe in specific ideologies, ones freedom to act on these beliefs should be guided by what is lawful and respectful of the rights of others,” de Guia said.

The CHR spokesperson noted that the CPP in a statement has admitted that civilian properties were destroyed or damaged by NPA in the course of several operations.

“[T]he CPP claims that those who have suffered damages were compensated,” de Guia said.

‘The proper venue’

De Lima however said the CHR is not the venue for the filing of such complaints against the NPA as an agreement has been signed between the GRP and the NDFP for exactly such a mechanism.

The GRP and the NDFP signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands establishing a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to receive and investigate reports of human rights and IHL violations by either party.

De Lima reminded the AFP that if it wants to file complaints against the CPP and NPA, the most appropriate thing it can do is to ask GRP President Rodrigo Duterte as GRP principal to file through his representative complaints against the underground groups to the NDFP Section of the JMC.

“Unlike the GRP under the Duterte regime which engages in fascist crimes of state terrorism, the NDFP strictly adheres directly to the international law on human rights and humanitarian conduct in war as well as through the provisions of CARHRIHL,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gov’t snubs CHR in review of anti-drug war list of victims

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) revealed it is being kept out of the review of the first partial report of the deaths resulting from the conduct of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

The CHR said the snub is contrary to the commitments and assurances of the government during the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last year.

“This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement Monday.

In his speech delivered online during the UNHRC’s 44th general session last June 30, Guevarra said the Duterte government established an inter-agency panel, chaired by his office, “that is quietly conducting a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.”

The members of the interagency panel are the Department of Justice, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, the Presidential Management Staff, the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation, Guevarra later revealed.

The government assured the international community that the CHR would play a role in the panel.

“As with all human rights-related mechanisms in the country, the Commission on Human Rights would be involved in its capacity as an independent monitoring body,” it said.

But Dumpit said the CHR has not been involved despite “respectfully, diligently, consistently, and repeatedly asked the Department of Justice” concerning its role in the said panel, to no avail.

Nonetheless, Dumpit said the CHR strongly urges the Government to publicize the findings “as transparency is key to ensure the credibility of the said report.”

“This will allow victims and their families to access crucial information in the process of obtaining justice. We reiterate our openness and willingness to engage with the government in this process,” Dumpit said.

What the UNHRC said

In a 26-page report last June 4, the UNHRC said the Duterte government’s heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.

The report also noted that the anti-drug killings range from “at least 8,663” to possibly triple the number.

In examining key policy documents of the Duterte government relating to its campaign against illegal drugs, the UNHRC found a troubling lack of due process, protections, and the use of language calling for “negation” and “neutralization” of drug suspects.

“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the UNHRC report stated.

In a separate statement issued last June 26, various UN special rapporteurs said the UNHRC report confirmed their findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition.

“The reports also finds, as we had, stark and persistent impunity,” the UN experts said. 

The experts highlighted “the staggering cost of the relentless and systematic assault on the most basic rights of Filipinos at the hands of the Government”:

  • Based on the most conservative assessment, since July 2016, 8,663 people have been killed in the war on drugs and 223,780 “drug personalities” arrested, with estimates of triple that number.
  • At least 73 children were killed during that period in the context of a campaign against illegal drugs. Concerns have also been raised about grave violations against children committed by State and non-State actors in the context of military operations, including the recruitment and use of children in combat or support.
  • The lasting economic harm and increased poverty among the children and other family members of those killed is likely to lead to further human rights violations.
  • At least 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women, plus at least 40 legal professionals had been killed since 2015, many of whom were working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land and environmental rights of farmers and indigenous peoples and housing rights of the urban poor.
  • The Securities and Exchanges Commission in 2018 revoked the license of a prominent news website Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, has been arrested multiple times on various charges and found guilty of cyber libel.
  • On 5 May 2020, President Duterte’s government ordered the shut-down of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest TV and radio network, after years of explicit threats from the President in part because of its critical reporting on the “war on drugs”.
  • There has been no accountability whatsoever for the multiple human rights and humanitarian law violations, limited follow-up on transitional justice and reconciliation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; independent investigations by local institutions have been thwarted; many in the opposition silenced, including Senator Leila Norma Eulalia de Lima imprisoned since 24 February 2017.
  • President Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court after the tribunal launched a preliminary examination of crimes against humanity committed in the context of the “war on drugs” in 2018.

The special rapporteurs also called on the UNHRC member-states “to initiate governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kabataan, ipagpapatuloy ang laban na nasimulan noong martial law

Sa pagkilos ng mga kabataan sa harap ng Commission on Human Rights sa ika-48 anibersaryo ng martial law noong nakaraang Lunes, Setyembre 21, nagpahayag si Regina Tolentino, deputy secretary general ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines o CEGP, na nais ipagpatuloy ng mga kabataan ang pakikibaka noong panahon ng batas militar.

Ito aniya ay dahil walang pinag-kaiba ang kasalukuyang rehimen ni Pangulong Duterte sa panahon ni Marcos sa isyu ng karapatang pantao at usaping panlipunan.