Some days before the elections and up to the end of his term, the culture of impunity has remained synonymous with the US-BS Aquino regime. Extrajudicial killings continue as well as violations of human rights and international humanitarian laws. Perpetrators are given awards and remain scot-free. The government continues to wash its hands off accountability.
Here in the Cordillera, we deplore the processes and decisions handed down by the Commission on Human Rights regional office (CHR-CAR) on cases filed against State security forces on human rights and international humanitarian law violations. They have become an instrument to whitewash investigations instead of them conducting their own independent ones for them to live by the institution’s mandate, that is, to be an independent monitoring body of the compliance of the Philippine government to its human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.
Case in point is its decision to terminate the international humanitarian law violation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 41st Infantry Battalion against Arnold Jaramillo of the New People’s Army (NPA). The case was filed by his widow, Cynthia Dacanay-Jaramillo, a month after the AFP operations in September 2014. The autopsy report conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation, which was validated by the CHR Forensic Center, stated clearly that the fatal shot sustained by Arnold Jaramillo was the one fired from his back at close range.
Despite this telling piece, they terminated the case citing lack of evidence – that there was no eyewitness to the incident. They have decided to be blind to the fact that the 41st IBPA had control over the area and could have offered quarters to the members of the New People’s Army and held them as prisoners of war instead of willfully killing 7 of them and subjecting them to other forms of international humanitarian law violations such as torture and desecration of remains.
By doing this, the CHR upheld the claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines held a well-planned military operation with its forces trained and equipped with “lectures on Military Tactics, Rules of Engagement, as well as International Humanitarian Law, protection of Human Rights and First Aid” which by the facts of the case did not translate in practice.
They have not even considered other facts to the incident and decided as well to be blind to pursue the accountability of the AFP with regards to the extrajudicial killing of Engineer Fidela Salvador and the 24 human shields the AFP used during the military operation resulting to the death of Noel Viste.
The families of the victims of the AFP operations in Lacub with the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance have provided them with enough pieces of evidence to initiate their own independent investigation. We ask them, what diligence was exerted for the investigation to be done independently?
In the interest of justice, a body such as the CHR, should not subject complaints to the rigid requisites of a regular trial court to establish leads to accountability. They have to recommend actions that can pave the way for an appropriate resolution of a case. It should exert all its efforts to get to the truth and not place the burden of providing evidence on the victims or families seeking justice but to compel the necessary institutions, especially the State security forces, to report truthfully and not just for matters of compliance.
If not, how and where else can the people seek justice?
If not, why else is the institution in existence?
In terminating the case and putting burden on complainants, the CHR committed further injustice and contributed to the culture of impunity that has flourished under the Aquino regime.
We cannot underscore enough the importance of the Commission on Human Rights especially in the context of the Philippines being in a state of civil war. Their role as an independent monitoring body of the compliance of the Philippine government to its human rights and international humanitarian law obligations should reflect how life, rights, human dignity should be recognized, respected and protected. This can not be done if it allows a culture of impunity to thrive.
A few days before the people choose the next leaders of the nation, we ask the people to ensure two things when they cast their votes and after. First, that you choose, and discern well from the set of candidates and partylists – who among them can own up to concrete measures for recognizing, protecting and upholding human rights and international humanitarian law. Second, that you call on the next government to ensure that the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. These are of great value to break the injustice in our society.
JUSTICE FOR LACUB!
HOLD THE AQUINO GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS WAR CRIMES!
RESUME THE PEACE TALKS BETWEEN
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINES AND
THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT OF THE PHILIPPINES!