In the second quarter of this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made pronouncements of “zero violations” on human rights which was hit by several, if not all, human rights groups and advocates as fabrications. To the same tune, the military told media that human rights awareness training continues and was high among their ranks and cited it as one reason for their “zero violations”.
However on the ground, in the Cordillera, the continued occupation of several schools or school grounds, day care centers, or public buildings in far flung villages by elements of the state security forces deployed in the region has been pointed out, criticized and made subject of civilian complaints on human rights violations. This among other complaints that include rape of minors, illegal detention, torture, and the vilification of activists working for the conservation of the environment, for student rights, for labor rights, and even church workers, etc. against elements of the military.
These military actions against the civilian population, whose basic rights the former are sworn to protect, are contrary to what the AFP flaunt and promote as “zero violations” or their awareness of human rights. Again, apparently with impunity, elements of the armed forces took it on to conduct “a counter-insurgency campaign” in public schools. Last June 26, a Department of Education Division Memorandum #68, s. 2012 was issued, addressed to school heads of public elementary and high schools, allowing the Philippine Army to conduct one hour symposia in all public elementary and high schools under the division of Baguio City.
This on the pretext of (as lifted from the memo): “This is to enhance pupil’s/students consciousness about the lies, deception and clandestine operation of the Communist Terrorist Movement.”
This is practically bringing the AFP’s war to the children, to the places where they are supposed to be safe and protected from such violence and deception. It is cowardly and dishonorable to try to skirt civilian laws and statutes promulgated to protect civil society and above all the children.
The alleged awareness of human rights and humanitarian laws among officers of the military and the DepEd is put to naught by this so-called coordination between them to conduct this counter-insurgency campaign. Like they say, “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. This coordination is therefore a blatant contravention to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, RA 7610 and other laws on the protection of children. Our children must be spared from that counter-insurgency campaign of the AFP.
One campaign material used was titled “Knowing Thy Enemy” — a power point presentation by the AFP which names and vilifies legal people’s organizations like Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Cordillera Peoples Alliance as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) — is hard evidence to the military lies and their blatant disregard for human rights. Tarnishing these peoples organizations that for decades have been at the forefront of the struggle to promote and defend human rights – women’s rights, indigenous peoples rights, etc. – with falsehoods can only further decrease whatever credibility or dignity the military claims to have.
“In his report in 2008 on extra judicial killings in the country, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said that the Philippine military was in denial. And just as the violations of the people’s rights continue the AFP continues to be in a state of denial…”
The DepEd should immediately stop this counterinsurgency campaign in the schools and instead heighten the awareness of the children on the true history of their people, on their rights as children and their constitutional rights as good Filipino citizens. # nordis.net