PRESS STATEMENT for International Human Rights Day
December 10, 2011
In commemoration of International Human Rights Day, we progressive youth organizations in the Cordillera are joining the rest of the Filipino peoples’ struggle to defend their rights.
As we remember last election, Aquino promised to make Gloria Arroyo, JovitoPalparan, and other high ranking military and government officials who served as state instruments in the orchestration of counter-insurgency plans OplanBantayLaya I and II accountable. He even condemned GMA’s bloody human rights record and promised to families of the victims that these perpetrators will be captured and put to jail. 1 ½ year later Aquino had a complete turn-around by becoming a hypocrite and worse- a coddler of human rights violators.
Stemming from a grim human rights situation numerous violations of human rights of the Filipino people continue and no noticeable difference can be observed between the human rights situation in Aquino’s term and his predecessor Gloria Arroyo. 64 people are victims of extra-judicial killings, 9 are victims of enforced disappearance, and hundreds of communities that are victims of indiscriminate firing, threat, and harassment. 2 victims of killings and 1 victim of enforced disappearance are young people.
All three of them, before the incident are being tagged as members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and are being demonized by members of military in their communities. When you call a person or an organization a member of the New Peoples’ Army, you are branding them as enemies of the state and is tantamount to giving them a death sentence or turning them into open target of armed operations of the state. And the sons and daughters of the Cordillera we suffer the same fate as we continue to assert our rights.
STUDENTS UNDER FIRE
This year has been marked by unceasing violations not just of their political and civil rights but also of their economic rights. Cases of harassment and surveillance continue. In Ifugao State University, a number of the scholars of KABATAAN Partylist have been consistently threatened by intelligence agents of the military. Scholars are threatened that they were already blacklisted because of they are an “NPA scholar” and that they would never be able to find a job when they graduate. As a result one scholar dropped out of the scholarship out of fear for his future.
At Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC), members of the League of Progressive Students reported that they were under surveillance by suspected intelligence agents of the military.Also at the peak of the turmoil in MPSPC regarding the students’ protest against President Nieves Dacyon, an article was published in the Mountain Province Exponent blatantly linked the organization League of Filipino Students (LFS) to the New People’s Army, saying that LFS is a “leftist organization of the NPA,” so it cannot be trusted. This is an obvious case of red-tagging that sows division and mistrust among the youth. Another is the case of Mildred Salang-ey, also a member of the LPS who is wrongly charged of frustrated murder of soldier/s in Ifugao.
In Baguio city, members of the Civilian Military Operation units are active in several colleges and universities. They serve as speakers/trainers in forums under the guise of “peace and order seminars” while instead of discussing crime prevention, they do their part to “educate the children why they should stay away from communism”. During the course of the discussion they present “Knowing Thy Enemy” which vehemently tags progressive youth leaders and legal organizations as NPA recruiters, communist fronts and enemies of the state. Worse the university administration washes their hands of responsibility, ultimately failing to protect their student from such violation.
DECEITFUL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
AFP clearly violates human rights as they continue to encamp on public elementary schools and use it as a detachment, barracks or supplies center. The average time of the soldiers stay is from 2-4 months, with the schedule of classes being disturbed as soldiers launched operations against the NPA.
Aside from that, in Abrathere are reports that out of school youth ranging from 14-16 are being recruited by the 41st Infantry Battalion as members of the CAFGU, promising scholarships, laptops and even a 5,000 peso monthly allowance. Aside from being recruited as CAFGU, some are being coerced in to playing the role of a rebel returnee while again being offered economic relief.
In addition, there are cases wherein young women in the communities are being coerced into entering relationships with soldiers. Oftentimes soldiers used intimidation and harassment on these young women to gain sexual favors and for these young women to serve as intelligence assets in their communities.
AQUINO AS A VIOLATOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Aside from these overt violations of the civil and political rights of the youth in the Cordillera, there are also the cases of economic rights which are often forgotten to be subsumed under our human rights too. Most notably, there is the huge budget cut in education among other social services in the proposed 2012 budget which will surely imperil the access of the Cordilleran youth to these basic social services. Out of the 45 billion budget proposed by the 110 State Universities and Colleges, only 21.8 billion were listed in the 2012 National Expenditure Program of the Aquino administration. This is below half of the proposal of the SUCs according to their needs in facilities upgrade, infrastructure buildings and the expected increase of salaries of personnels as legislated in the Salary Standardization Law.
On the other hand, the AFP and the Department of National Defense as the state’s instrument in suppressing the people’s opposition gets 1.06 billion in the 2012 budget. Instead of books and medicine, Aquino is funding AFP guns for them to ensure that the government’s destructive projects such as dams and mining applications will be carried out smoothly in the region.
At this point, we can see how the Aquino administration keeps the people from obtaining their rights – from political to civic and economic rights. This administration does not protect the security of the Cordilleran youth, does not provide them with their basic needs and in fact becomes the number 1 violator of the peoples’ democratic rights. This administration, who shamelessly claims to come from two democracy icons is the one who is slowly killing the people of this country.
In our celebration of International Human Rights Day, it is an imperative that we tell to the Aquino administration our grim reminder of the dismal state of human rights in the country. More importantly, we must assert these rights are ours to have and must condemn all forms by which these rights are violated. Commitment to human rights means the pullout of the military from the communities, the end to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests, detention and torture, and the end to the implementation of OplanBayanihan.Given an inutile administration comprised in a system that serves only a few at the expense of the many, we implore other sectors in joining us in our persistent and dogged assertion and condemnation can we get what we truly deserve.
College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines
National Union of Students of the Philippines.