“Naka-upo lang sa pwesto, nagka-amnesia na (She got amnesia just by getting into power)”. This was the reaction of Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of the youth group Anakbayan, to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) head Etta Rosales telling students to ‘go to the library’ instead of joining this week’s daily strikes by youth and student groups.
According to Rosales, the protests would ‘muddle’ the essence of the 40th commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law.
“It’s either Rosales is suffering from amnesia and has forgotten what Martial Law actually was, or she is afflicted from short-term memory loss and is oblivious to the rampant human rights violations committed under the current administration” said the youth leader.
According to the human rights watchdog Karapatan, 101 people have been killed by military and police personnel, as well as other government officials, under the rule of President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. These include:
- Dr. Leonard Co, one of the country’s few botanists, slain in Leyte while conducting a study of plant life
- Dr. Gerry Ortega, a radio broadcaster, killed on the orders of pro-mining Palawan local officials
- Wilhelm Geertman, a Dutch development worker who supported the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita
- Marilou Valle, an urban poor leader and anti-demolition activist in Tondo, slain on the eve of the 3rd SONA
- Arnel Leonor, a 17-year old student killed during the demolition of an urban poor community in Las Pinas
Despite calls from various quarters for the president to emulate his late mother, who as president almost immediately granted amnesty to all political prisoners incarcerated under the Marcos dictatorship, military forces have actually arrested more people for their political beliefs.
As of today, there are 385 political detainees in the country, of which 107 were arrested under Noynoy. These include ‘consultants to the peace process’ of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are supposedly protected from arrest by prior agreements between the government and the NDFP.
As in the time of Marcos, many of these detainees have suffered torture and other forms of inhumane treatment at the hands of their captors. One, 59-year old Tirso Alcantara, was fed with food mixed with feces, glass shards, and garbage. He was also forced to ingest chemicals which caused him vomiting, diarrhea, and palpitations.
Militarization of the countryside
Meanwhile in the countryside, hundreds of families have been displaced due to the fear and destruction caused by military forces and paramilitary groups.
In the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province, among the most widespread complaints by residents against Army troops are: illegal searches of houses, repeated interrogations, conducting village assemblies where those who did not attend were branded as ‘NPA’ supporters, and threats of murder against those who ‘would not cooperate’ with the military.
In Bukidnon province, members of the NIPAR, a paramilitary group under the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Army, forced indigenous peoples opposing mining out of their community by burning their homes.
Amnesia or Noynoying?
“Tell us now Etta, do events like extra-judicial killings, continued detention of political prisoners, and militarization of the rural areas not something to be alarmed about? Or is it something normal for you? Has power made you forget things like basic human rights” said Crisostomo.
The youth leader advised Rosales to ‘focus on your job and stop Noynoying, instead of displaying your ignorance of human rights to the public’.