By DELIA BAGNI
BAGUIO CITY — “Oplan Bayanihan is deceptive,” says Atty. Jennifer Asuncion vice chairperson of the Cordillera Human Rights Association (CHRA) during a press conference spearheaded by the Amnesty International to share its 50th annual report on the state of the world’s human rights last June 21 here.Asuncion reiterated that while the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) boasts of using a people-centered approach in the implementation of its Oplan Bayanihan, reports and cases of human rights violations on the ground documented by the CHRA shows that it is no different from the past Oplans (Bantay Laya I&II).
She pointed out that vilification and militarization continues to haunt and endanger indigenous communities in the region. She cited as example the case of health workers who are members of the Community Health Education Services and Trainings in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) harassed and accused by the military as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).
She explained that they filed complaints with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) but CHR dismissed the case on the basis that the area where the health workers were harassed is a “red area”.
“What is a red area? If a community is identified as a red area does it mean that human rights are no longer respected?” she asked.
She also pointed out that encampments of AFP troopers in communities and even the use of schools as detachments continues in the region. She added that in areas where soldiers are encamped various human rights violations are reported and documented.
According to Asuncion the continuing vilification and militarization results to continuing cases of harassment, intimidation, economic displacement, sexual abuse and the denial of services of members and leaders of people’s organizations and even beneficiaries of partylists like Bayan Muna, Gabriela Womens Party, Kabataan, Anakpawis and ACT Teacher’s Partylist. She added that these partylist groups have been accused to be terrorists and enemies of the state by state agents.
She also pointed out that the culture of impunity continues under the present administration as (HRV) perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice. “We are still seeking justice for James Balao a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance who was abducted by suspected state security forces, for Markus Bangit also of CPA who was murdered and all other victims of extrajudicial killings,” she said.
She also pointed out that justice is served when the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished accordingly.
Art Allad-iw of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet stressed that out of 156 cases of media killings since democracy was restored in the country, only 10 have successful court convictions and only 15 are active cases. He reiterated that in most cases only the gunmen were identified and arrested while the masterminds were not which only show that the culture of impunity continues.
Allad-iw shared that the families of killed media practitioners recently formed a group called the Samahan ng mga Pamilya ng mga Pinaslang na Mamamahayag. He said that the group is not just for the pursuit of justice for their killed kin but more importantly to help each other recover from the tragedy.
He also shared that NUJP has organized Sarangola Summer Camp to help the children of killed journalists and their families to cope with the situation. An education scholarship program is also offered for the children of the killed journalists, he added.
Wilnor Papa of Amnesty International stressed that the present administration’s crusade against corruption is commendable but the protection and promotion of human rights especially for the powerless and voiceless people deserves as much passion and diligence.
Papa reiterated that the continuing impunity make perpetrators of human rights abuses feel that they can continue violating rights without fear of accountability, prosecution and punishment.
Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Chief of Academy Staff Col. Hermogildo Aquino maintained that Oplan Bayanihan is not a counter insurgency program and is an open internal security plan of the AFP. # nordis.net