“They make it appear as though we are criminals.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Ofel Beltran-Balleta did not know what to feel when she learned that her father, the late labor leader Crispin Beltran, is included on the military’s so-called “rogue gallery.”
Beltran, who died in an accident on May 20, 2008, is among the 70 activists who are on the list attached to criminal complaint filed in Davao City against scores of activists last May.
“Kami nga naka-get over na, sila hindi pa,” Balleta told Bulatlat.com. “Naniniwala akong walang ipinanganak na bobo at tanga pero ano itatawag namin sa kanila?” (We have already moved on [after Crispin Beltran’s death], it seems the military hasn’t. I believe nobody is born dumb and stupid but what do you call them who included a dead man in the list?)
Besides Beltran, environmentalist Francis Morales, who died of leukemia in November last year, is on the list.
Also on the list are Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Juliet de Lima, member of the NDFP negotiating panel. Since 1980s, both have been in exile in the Netherlands.
For those who are alive, being on the list is a “threat to their life, liberty and security.”
The list is an attachment to the formal charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention and trafficking filed against 15 leaders and members of people’s organizations who visited the Lumad evacuees at the Haran center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City. Over 700 Manobo from Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought refuge at the Church compound since January due to heavy military operations.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan and one of the 70 activists in the list, told Bulatlat.com in an interview, “They make it appear as though we are criminals.”
Palabay said it is not far-fetched that they would be implicated in the “fabricated” charges. The complaint listed as respondent “John/Jane Does” and Palabay said it is very easy for the military to amend the complaint to insert additional respondents. She said they could also be targeted for worse forms of human rights violations, including enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing.
Amparo, habeas data
Beltran, Palabay and seven others filed yesterday, Sept. 18, a petition for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data before the Supreme Court.
The writ of amparo is a remedy “available to any person whose right to life, liberty or security” is violated or “threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission by a public official or employee or of a private individual or entity.” Meanwhile, the writ of habeas data is a remedy “available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party.”
Other petitioners are Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Zarate, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus, former legislators Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.
Those providing humanitarian assistance to the Lumad refugees such as Sis. Francis Añover, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines; Rev. Irma Balaba, ordained minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP); and, Jacquiline Ruiz, executive director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, are also on the list.
The charges were filed by some Lumad who opted to return to Talaingod. Based on the affidavits filed by the complainants, pictures of certain leaders of people’s organizations were shown to them at the office of the Criminal Detection and Investigation Group (CIDG) in Davao City on April 30. From this gallery, the alleged complainants purportedly identified the respondents in the case.
“The fact that the CIDG local office was readily able to show such lists and photographs to the alleged complainants further indicates that the Petitioners are and have been the subject of State surveillance,” the petition read. Bulatlat.com obtained a copy of the petition from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the petitioners’ lawyers.
Zarate has been slapped with serious illegal detention and child abuse for allegedly preventing a Lumad child evacuee from leaving UCCP Haran.
Balaba experienced several incidents of surveillance and harassment just last month. For weeks, Balaba and her daughter noticed a vehicle with the government plate SLB 383 parked just six meters away from the gate where the two are staying.
Same counterinsurgency strategy
Palabay likened the list to the “order of battle” during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The same practices remain,” Palabay said. She said Aquino’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is no different from Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. During the Arroyo administration, progressive organizations were labeled as “enemies of the state” and leaders and members were included in the “order of battle.”
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, after his visit to the Philippines in February 2007, cited this order of battle.
“The document, co- signed by senior military and police officials, calls upon ‘all members of the intelligence community in the [relevant] region … to adopt and be guided by this update to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the CPP/NPA/NDF’, [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/ National Democratic Front]” Alston said. The former UN rapporteur noted that the document listed hundreds of members of civil society organizations.
Zarate was included in the 2007 order of battle prepared by the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, the same unit involved the filing of recent “trumped-up” charges against him.
Mariano and Casino, meanwhile, were among those charged with rebellion in 2006, instigated by the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). Alston, in his report, criticized IALAG as a “mechanism established for bringing charges against civil society organizations and party-list groups in order “to impede the work of these groups and put in question their right to operate freely.” The charges were eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Respondents in the said petition are Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, PNP Chief P/Dir. Ricardo Marquez, other AFP officials such as Army Chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año and Eastern Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, CIDG Director C/Supt. Victor Deona, among others.