By ATTY. FREDERICO M. GAPUZ
Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM)
Posted by Bulatlat
The Union of People’s Lawyers In Mindanao (UPLM) strongly condemns the grievously fallacious and ridiculously adulterated lies peddled by the Armed Forces of the Philippine s 10th Infantry Division as contained in the power point presentation labeled as “JCICC AGILA , 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT”.
The Union views with severe contempt the said “OB” or “order of battle” because it is tantamount to a “hit list” a death warrant for the personalities named therein.
It is another direct and blatant attack on the people’s civil and political rights, particularly for the named activists, human rights workers, lawyers, political leaders, journalists, church people, NGO workers and even performing artists. Linking them to the so-called White Area Committee (WACOM) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is nothing but another vain attempt by the AFP to vilify and demonize those who are critical of the Arroyo regime and its totalitarian policies. This is a clear violation of existing conventions on human rights and international humanitarian law.
As a voluntary mass organization of lawyers, law students and paralegals, we strongly denounced, in particular, the inclusion in the said “Order of Battle” of the names of the following lawyers, who are either officers or members of UPLM and the other lawyers’ group like the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP):
Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, UPLM member and Councilor, First District, Davao City;
Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate, past IBP-Davao City President, UPLM secretary general and Davao City FLAG coordinator;
Atty. Lilibeth Ladaga, UPLM member;
Atty. Noreen Minette Manatad, IBP-Davao City member but is now practicing in the United States;
Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni, chairperson of Karapatan Northern Mindanao and officer of UPLM Northern Mindanao Chapter;
Atty. Benjamin de Guzman, past IBP-Davao City President and former Davao City Mayor.
The bare denials issued by the AFP’s 10th ID failed to negate or even diminish the fact that it has included the names of these personalities and groups in what is purportedly a counter-insurgency report!
While the list was purportedly an assessment made in 2007, yet, the strong suspicion that it is indeed a “hit list” is not unfounded. For instance, Celso Pojas, spokesperson of the Farmers of Association of Davao City was on the list and he was assassinated on May 15, 2008.
Also, Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad has experienced being placed under surveillance for several instances in her residence.
That the said “order of battle” sends a message of fear is all too apparent. Yet, it also exposes the archaic McCarthyist thinking of the AFP that those who espouse political beliefs or opinions critical to the government’s lies, cheating and corruption are “enemies of the state”. And, as “enemies of the state” these persons, even if unarmed and operating within the bounds of the legal system, are fair target or subjects of surveillance, threats, and, worse, for “neutralization” or assassination.
The spike in the cases of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao in the recent months is proof of the continuation of this distorted policy of the Arroyo administration, which has already been criticized, among others, by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. Thus, as we consider taking concrete legal moves to address this malicious vilification campaign, we are also holding the Arroyo government, particularly the AFP, accountable for any harmful repercussion that may happen to any individual or group that are included in the said “order of battle.”