“The SONA overkill security preparations are indications of a regime that is scared witless of the people’s defiance and actions.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – President Benigno S. Aquino III and the US President Barack Obama were found guilty of human rights violations against the Filipino people in the recently-concluded International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) held in Washington DC last July 16 to 18.
But when the complainants went to the Philippine embassy in Washington DC last July 20 to hand the verdict, Philippine consular officials reportedly gave them the cold shoulder. They refused to even issue a statement that they were given the verdict and refused to accept it, activist-filmmaker Bonifacio Ilagan told Bulatlat.com.
Ilagan, a human rights victim under Marcos dictatorship and whose sister Rizalina is a victim of enforced disappearance, is among the 32 witnesses presented before the IPT jurors, along with 29 other cases submitted for the jury’s consideration. He said the Philippine government’s refusal to accept and acknowledge the verdict goes to show “the usual habit of not being accountable to their deeds. It is the height of insecurity.”
He said the same is true as Aquino prepares for his last State of the Nation Address (Sona) tomorrow, July 27.
For the past days, state security forces have busied themselves putting up concertina wires, concrete barriers and the deployment of about 2,000 soldiers and 4,000 police against protesters who will troop to the streets outside gates of the House of Representatives in Quezon City.
“The state forces will try to defend the indefensible president whose crimes against the Filipino people are worth a thousand lifetimes in jail. The SONA overkill security preparations are indications of a regime that is scared witless of the people’s defiance and actions,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.
Months leading to Aquino’s last Sona, activists have been experiencing intensified threats and harassment from suspected military agents.
Trade unionists from government employees union Courage were sent poison letters with cellphone numbers whom they were advised to call “in case they change their mind” and “before it is too late.” Activists from other progressive groups, too, experienced surveillance while others were offered “part-time jobs.” These harassments were seen as mere attempts to silence criticisms, they said.
Under Aquino, Karapatan has documented 133,599 incidents of harassments, threats and intimidation.
As the IPT pointed out on its verdict, human rights violations are not random but rather systematic. Graver human rights violations such as killings and enforced disappearances often begin with the red-tagging of activists as either supporters or members of the communist movement in the country, and would be then followed by harassment and surveillance.
Though their case was not heard before the IPT, Amador Cadano, father of UP student Guiller Cadano, said the verdict is proof of his son’s innocence.
Guiller and fellow UP student Gerald Salonga were abducted by joint police and military forces in Nueva Ecija on Aug. 9, 2014 and were later surfaced in a police custodial center in the province. Both were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
“But at the same time, it is a bitter reminder that we have to go through a long, windy road in the country’s court to finally set them free. We need to wait and we need to be patient until they are finally out of prison,” Cadano told Bulatlat.com at the launch of Portrayal, an exhibit of portraits of political prisoners on July 24.
No matter how strong their evidence is, Cadano said his son remains in jail and is among the many political prisoners languishing in jail due to “unseen hands” that dictates the court proceedings and charges filed against them.
Karapatan documented 538 political prisoners in the country, of whom 18 are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Many of them are sick and elderly, but the Aquino administration rejected calls to release them on humanitarian grounds.
The group criticized this as being a “saboteur of and a double crosser in the peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP.” Karapatan said that apart from detaining peace consultants, the Aquino administration has also violated previously-signed agreements with the NDFP and showed his “disinterest in truly solving the roots of the armed conflict and in finding the way to genuine peace.”
For his part, Cadano said that Aquino, by far, is “the most pinakamanhid na tao (hard hearted,unfeeling person).” His agenda is nothing but to perpetuate the sins of the previous administration. He is worse than Marcos.”