Army officials not off the hook on torture, says HR group

EVANGELISTA BATCHAR

DAVAO CITY- Don’t just arrest the Cafgus, but the Army officials as well.

This is what the human rights group Karapatan said after four Cafgu members were charged for abusing an indigenous farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental last week.

The group said there is accountability from the higher command of the Armed Forces in Mindanao over the incident.

Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan – Southern Mindanao, said the Cafgu were sacrificial lambs.

“These armed auxiliaries and Corporal Batolbatol have become the sacrificial lambs, in order for the 10th Infantry Division to project themselves as an agency who respect human rights. But the truth is, this division must be held accountable as well. They are the ones who placed these elements in the field in the first place,” Suazo said.

“These officers have willingly let loose their dogs which are the paramilitary to prey upon the people. This is not a simple case of lack of oversight; this harassment and physical assault is part of the systematic war against the people, Oplan Bayanihan.” Suazo added.

For this, Suazo reiterates the call to scrap Executive Order 546, the act that legalized the use of armed auxiliaries by the AFP.

Suazo also condemns that cases involving the military have been moving on a slow pace, at worse being dismissed.

“Till now, the cases of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, Roque Antivo, Juvy Capion, and the Paquibato farmers remain bereft of justice, even when the military’s bloody hand into these killings have been established in several occasions,” Suazo said.

She added that aside from hiding away from justice, the AFP is hiding also from issues of corruption based on Commission on Audit reports.

Karapatan urged the local government units and the Commission on Human Rights to stand up for the victims of human rights violations, that they should stay in their mandate to serve the people.

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Military abuse of elderly in Malita scored

POURING WATER A military element from the 72nd IB is pictured here pouring water over the head of Kaido, an elderly farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental. Karapatan-SMR urged government units to take action and bring perpetrators to justice. (Screencap from video posted on MindaNews website)
POURING WATER A military element from the 72nd IB is pictured here pouring water over the head of Kaido, an elderly farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental. Karapatan-SMR urged government units to take action and bring perpetrators to justice. (Screencap from video posted on MindaNews website)

DAVAO CITY –  The human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao dares the 10th Infantry Division to punish soldiers and CAFGU members caught on video abusing an old man in Mailta, Davao Occidental.

The video, uploaded on Facebook and on MindaNews, showed an old farmer on his knees while he was being poured water on the head by people identified by MindaNews as members of the Philippine Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion.

“We condemn in highest terms this inhumane humiliation and injuries inflicted by Corporal Batolbatol and three other soldiers.  Their act show the very rotten nature and disrespect of human rights by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Karapatan SMR Secretary-General Hanimay Suazo.

Suazo added that the soldiers caught on video “are not fit to carry their uniform and arms and call themselves protectors of the people. Which also goes the same with their higher ups who deny and hide their atrocities.”

Reacting on the statement from the 10th ID spokesman that justice will be given on the matter, she stressed that “the guilty should be placed behind bars. Only when they have been relieved of their duties and served punishment will true justice be served.”

Suazo feared that the 10th ID may resort to pressure and pay off the victims’ family to keep the latter from pursuing the case.

“We remember the rape victim by the 68th Infantry Battalion in Bukidnon was given thousands of pesos just to settle their atrocity.  It is a meager amount compared to the trauma and indignity she encountered in her rapists’ hands,” exclaimed Suazo.

Suazo said these incidents exposes the reality of the AFP’s peace and development programs are a sham with abuses happening.

“Contrary to its claims of peace and development under Oplan Bayanihan, it is state brutality at its worst against elderly, children, and women. The AFP does not discern or choose who they want to victimize,” she said.

Suazo also asks the local government of Malita to act and protect the victims and other farmers from the military.

 

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Women defenders, lumads targets of military abuse

DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women's Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)
DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women’s Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)

DAVAO CITY  – Women rights advocates here celebrate International Women’s Day with dance and protests against the military attacks against women lumad and human rights defenders in Davao Region.

The human rights alliance Karapatan Southern Mindanao led a rally attended by 500 people in Freedom Park to address military attacks against lumad communities in the hinterlands of Davao.

They noted that majority of the 700 Manobos evacuees from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and from Kitaotao, Bukidnon now staying in UCCP Haran in Davao City are women, some of them giving birth in difficult conditions in Haran.

“Childbearing becomes more difficult for them since they are not in an environment they are comfortable and familiar with,” says Karapatan Southern Mindanao Secretary General Hanimay Suazo.

But Suazo said the worse atrocity committed by soldiers was the rape of a lumad mother in Bukidnon in 2014.

Suazo said the military soldier accused of the rap has yet to face charges and remains with his unit. “Private First Class Beni

DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women's Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)
DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women’s Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)

ie Blancada has yet to manifest his presence against any legal body. Blancada is the suspect of a rape of a mother in Bukidnon last 2014,” said Sauzo.

Suazo slammed the Army’s 10th Infantry Division for failing to bring Blancada to courts.

“We stand that the AFP, particularly the 10th ID, is coddling these rapists to prevent further tainting of their already untrusted image. If it was earnest in pursuing justice, it would have mobilized all its elements to purge criminals among its ranks. But that would be impossible, given that the current counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan makes the AFP prime perpetrators of human rights violations,” Suazo said.

Women defenders such as Suazo are also facing harassment in the form of trumped-up charges to discourage their advocacies.

“My work as human rights defender has placed me at the crosshairs of the military, both in legal and armed aspects,” Suazo said.

Other advocates facing cases include Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayang Southern Mindanao, and Malaya Genotiva of Anakbayan SMR.

“These baseless charges were made to discourage these women from pursuing their progressive cause, particularly in helping the lumad evacuees in the region,” Suazo said.

She also noted that 26 out of 107 activists facing trumped up cases are women. Of the 69 political prisoners in the country, four are women. Nine of 57 victims of extrajudicial killings are women.

“But far from being deterred, the more emboldened these women have become to fight the deceitful and anti-people nature of the military and the Aquino government,” Suazo said.

“The attacks against us are just small compared to the communities facing assault from militarization, or from mining and plantations plundering their land.  This is part of our commitment to pursue justice and rights for all,” Suazo said.

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PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT PERSON: HANIMAY SUAZO

SECRETARY-GENERAL, KARAPATAN-SMR