MANILA, September 21, 2012—The Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG) calls on the President to meaningfully honor his parents’ struggle against Ferdinand E. Marcos’ martial rule, by stopping human rights violations such as militarization, demolition and eviction of urban and rural poor communities, summary killing of media people and environmentalists, and other forms of human rights abuses.
Jaro Auxiliary Bishop and head convener of the VCDG, Gerardo Alminaza, cited Pope Benedict XVI in a statement, “Those with greater political, technical, or economic power may not use that power to violate the rights of others who are less fortunate. Peace is based on respect for the rights of all (Pope’s Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2007)”
He also said that despite Palace’s insistence on “daang matuwid”, human rights violations and the impunity of perpetrators continue to characterize the Aquino government.
“Two years into his presidency, 99 extra-judicial killings have been recorded, 11 enforced disappearances, 60 frustrated extra-judicial killings, 222 illegal arrests without detention, 216 illegal arrests with detention, 185 illegal search and seizure, and 7,008 forced eviction/demolition,” the prelate said.
Furthermore, Alminaza said that Aquino government also allegedly had committed 29,465 acts of forced evacuation, 19,325 threat/harassment/intimidation, 6,721 indiscriminate firing, 45 forced/fake surrender, 296 use of civilians in police and/or military operations as guides and/or shield, 14,620 use of schools, medical, religious and other public places for military purposes, 2,099 restriction or violent dispersal of mass actions, public assemblies and gatherings, among others, based on the reports of the human rights’ watchdog Karapatan.
In the Visayas, in the province of Cebu in particular, Alminaza stated that violent demolition and eviction of urban poor communities have continued.
To date, the church official said that more than 30,000 households in Metro Cebu are facing demolition.
“There are also farmers’ leaders who have asked helped from Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma as they are being harassed for asserting genuine agrarian reform. Fisherfolks in Cordova, Cebu and other areas in the province are being displaced from their livelihood due to reclamation projects for ports, golf courses, and others,” he furthered.
Citing the Church’s social teachings, Alminaza explained that in any program for development or progress, the government must make sure that everyone affected by it, especially those who don’t have the means to have their voices heard or who can’t defend themselves, is given the chance to be listened to or consulted. Moreover, the government should ensure that its decisions are not biased in favor of those who have more in life, at the expense of those who have less. Each one’s rights should not be violated in the name of progress, the prelate stresses.
Alminaza also stated that his group is “dismayed with the continuing impunity of perpetrators.”
“Impunity or exemption from punishment of perpetrators has become so common that it has become just another matter of routine. Impunity denies the victims their right to justice and redress. For example, General Jovito Palparan, who is facing two charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for allegedly masterminding the 2006 abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, continues to elude the law. The late Sec. Jesse Robredo in his talk in the Cebu Discernment of Public Servants last July 20, 2012, even said that Palparan can’t be arrested because “may kasabwat sa kapangyarihan,” he further explained.
In addition to this, the bishop also noted that many other government and military officials and personnel who are accused of human rights violation and yet continue to enjoy impunity under the current dispensation.
Alminaza, on the other hand, challenges the Aquino Government to denounce Martial Law through doing all it can to stop impunity and stop all human rights violations. He also challenged the citizens, especially the faithful and the members of the episcopacy and the clergy, to promote human rights and justice as to be with Pope Benedict XVI words: “Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice”. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]