MANILA, Philippines - The appointment of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as the new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff "signals the escalation of human rights violations" in the country, human rights group Karapatan said on Wednesday.
This, after Malacañang announced on Tuesday that Bautista will be replacing retiring AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said Bautista was the man behind the government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which she claimed resulted in 137 incidents of extrajudicial killings and 154 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killings.
She added that it is no different from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya.
“Oplan Bayanihan, despite its ‘people-centered’ and ‘respect for human rights’ catch-phrases, already resulted in 137 incidents of extrajudicial killings and 154 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killings (as of December 30, 2012). Contrary to claims by the Aquino government and the AFP, Oplan Bayanihan is no different from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” she said in a statement.
The group said Oplan Bayanihan had resulted in abuses on members and leaders of progressive organizations, as well as civilians suspected of being members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“There are still incidents of bombings and indiscriminate firing, the use of schools, chapels, medical facility and other public places for military purpose. People are still forced to leave their homes because of military atrocities in their communities,” Palabay said.
The human rights group once again called on the government to junk Oplan Bayanihan, saying it is merely a Filipino version of the US Counterinsurgency Guide released in 2009.
Bautista, a son of a decorated soldier who died rallying for peace, said he wants to end internal conflict by 2016.
His father, Brigadier General Teodulfo Bautista, lost his life in the hands of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Bautista is married to Bernardita Pardo, daughter of former Supreme Court Justice Bernardo Pardo. -- With reports from Robert Mano, dzMM; Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com