Int’l confab delegates call for end to impunity, resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks
July 21, 2013
“Without human rights, there can be no peace.”
Thus said Anna Claire Morris, lawyer and vice chairman of Haidane Society of Socialist Lawyers and a delegate of the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRP).
The conference delegates called for the resumption of the stalled peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), while assailing the continuing culture of impunity in the country.
The three-day conference attended by more than 200 human rights advocates from 26 countries tackled two main issues: escalating human rights violations in the country with the Aquino government’s insistence on implementing neoliberal policies like the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), as well as threats of more violence and human rights violations due to stalled peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP.
Former Rep. Teddy Casino, spokesperson of ICHRP, said the privatization of public utilities and services violates social and economic rights.
“This (privatization and PPP) systematically violates peoples’ rights to housing, health and other basic social services,” Casino said.
According to Casino, human rights violations worsened with Aquino’s implementation of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan patterned after the United States counter-insurgency guide.
“The situation is seen to worsen with the continued local crisis and the pivot of the US military troops from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific, specifically the Philippines as a bunker flag for increased military aggression in the region” said Casino.
Casino alleged that the termination of GPH peace talks with the NDFP would further escalate rights violations.
“The fact that the Aquino government has practically terminated the talks by ignoring or violating the 10 or so agreements previously signed by the GPH and NDFP. Aquino’s so-called ‘new approach’ of localized talks combined with counter-insurgency operations disregards and undermines all previous agreements, (and makes) the talks impossible,” he added.
Impunity still reigns
Prior to the conference, delegates joined fact-finding missions in Central Luzon, Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao to investigate and document cases of human rights abuses and the people’s economic and social conditions.
The group insisted that impunity still reigns under Aquino’s watch, while human rights violations are on the rise.
Gill Boehringer, an expert of contemporary state and corporate abuse of human rights, said that killings never stopped in the current administration. He said that killings and harassments have been reinforced by the government support for paramilitary groups.
Boehringer also noted that instead of prosecuting perpetrators, military officials linked to abductions and other violations were promoted by the Aquino government. He also cited the case of fugitive Gen. Jovito Palparan is being linked to the abduction of two student activists.
“One can only assume he is being protected as others have been protected in the past by military units,” Boehringer said.
Sharing his experience, a delegate from the US, Ron Gochez of Union del Barrio noticed the heavy presence of military in civilian communities and even said that an unknown military agents took photos of mission delegates in Paquibato District in Davao.
“We felt intimidated, and with a short visit to Paquibato, we felt what the people said about harassment, intimidation of military in their communities,” Gochez said.
A teacher by profession, Gochez issued deep concern to the plight of children in militarized communities, he said that children showed traumatic signs due to the presence of military in their communities. “I saw the psychological impact that the militarization had on children, and its very, very disappointing,” he said.
Gochez vowed to bring the reports of intensified human rights violations to California Sen. Barbara Boxer who in the past conducted Senate hearings on human rights violations in the Philippines.
The group also plans to bring to international attention the calls to resume peace talks between the revolutionary movement and the Aquino government.
International pressure worked in the past on the issue of human rights, “ International pressure worked in the past on the issue of human rights. We hope it works this time for the sake of peace,” said Casino.