New body on unexplained killings set to convene next month

By Edu Punay, Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 26 2012 11:21 AM | Updated as of Dec 26 2012 07:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - After the enactment of the law that criminalizes enforced disappearances, the government is set to convene next month the new body tasked to handle cases of unexplained killings and human rights violations.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said yesterday that the inter-agency on extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons would have it first meeting on Jan. 8.

The meeting will be held at the executive lounge of the DOJ complex in Manila at 9:30 a.m.

Justice Sec. Leila de Lima said the committee would first conduct inventory of cases of unexplained killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations perpetrated by both government and non-government players listed by all government sources.

“There is a recognized challenge of reconciling different data of such egregious human rights violations. We are also in the process of integrating in our working list cases coming from non-government and international organizations,” De Lima said.

She said from the list, the committee would prioritize investigation, reinvestigation, monitoring and prosecution of cases.

“The government is not shying away from the accountabilities of its state actors who may have committed these violations during the present administration. In fact, President Aquino’s specific instructions were to prioritize violations that have occurred in his term of office,” De Lima said.

The DOJ chief, who investigated prominent cases of unexplained killings when she was the chair of the Commission on Human Rights, will head the committee whose members include Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin, peace process adviser Teresita Deles, political affairs adviser Rolando Llamas, Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa, Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima, human rights committee Usec. Several Catura and National Bureau of Investigation director Nonnatus Rojas.

“Members of the committee, with their respective mandates, have to consolidate efforts to create a sustained, harmonious and, above all, effective response to totally obliterate the culture of impunity. We have to work together to ensure the arrests and eventual convictions of perpetrators of these human rights violations,” De Lima said.

The committee has also invited CHR chair Etta Rosales and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales as resource persons during the meeting.

Rights group assails AFP

Rights group Karapatan assailed the military for denying the existence of an order of battle (OB) list, in the wake of the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Law, which declares such lists as unlawful.

“It seems that acts of denial are the usual responses of the Aquino government and the AFP, when confronted with questions on their accountability for human rights violations. The lies that they have sown through their counter-insurgency program ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ are now being exposed,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general.

Karapatan questioned the supposed practice of the Aquino government in continuing such policy through the reported Joint Order 14-2012 of the Departments of National Defense (DND), and the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The order allegedly contained the names of leaders of the communist movement who carry bounties amounting to P466 million for their arrests.

“Such order, which was not even made public, is a dangerous and malicious perpetuation of the OB list, as it becomes a hit list of personalities/individuals who may be persecuted, filed with trumped-up charges or killed,” Palabay said.

She cited the case of Rolly Panesa, a security guard who was illegally arrested, tortured and is currently detained by the military on suspicion that he is Benjamin Mendoza, an alleged top communist leader who carries a P5.6-million bounty.

The group pointed to another supposed target list of the 86th Infantry Battalion and 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, which bore the names of 28 individuals as targets of military operations in Tinooc, Ifugao.

The list reportedly includes the names of Jude Baggo, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan secretary-general, and farmers who are vocal against militarization of the communities in the Cordilleras.

Karapatan attributed the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearances Law mainly on the “painstaking, persevering, militant and unwavering efforts for justice of the relatives of the victims, human rights groups and lawyers, and people’s organizations.”

The group has documented 12 victims of enforced disappearances under Aquino’s watch.

“With the law, we challenge the Aquino government to file charges against all perpetrators of enforced disappearances, from Gen. (Jovito) Palparan to Gen. Eduardo Año, to hold them accountable for the disappearances of Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Cadapan, Jonas Burgos and many others,” the group said.

Karapatan also urged Aquino to end enforced disappearances and all human rights violations by scrapping Oplan Bayanihan. - with Rhodina Villanueva