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New AFP chief dared to bring abusive military personnel before Congress

by Pesante-USA Wednesday, May. 28, 2008 at 9:23 AM 213-241-0906 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Taking cue from the statement of newly-installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano to make good his promise to turn over to civilian authorities military personnel involved in abusing military detainees, opposition lawmaker Rep. Teofisto Guingona III yesterday challenged the latter to fulfill his promise by turning over erring personnel to the House committee on human rights. “Bring those erring officers before the committee on human rights of the House of Representatives so that we may know the truth,” Guingona said.

New AFP chief dared to bring abusive military personnel before Congress


Manila-- Taking cue from the statement of newly-installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano to make good his promise to turn over to civilian authorities military personnel involved in abusing military detainees, opposition lawmaker Rep. Teofisto Guingona III yesterday challenged the latter to fulfill his promise by turning over erring personnel to the House committee on human rights.

“Bring those erring officers before the committee on human rights of the House of Representatives so that we may know the truth,” Guingona said.

The lawmaker specifically named Col. Arnulfo Marcos, a certain Capt. Alburo, and General Ireneo Espino as allegedly involved in the maltreatment and abuse of military detainees which include Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, a Medal of Valor awardee. The Medal of Valor is the highest military award given by the AFP.

The House committee on human rights has scheduled a hearing on the alleged human rights violations committed by military officers against military detainees.

During a press briefing at the House Media Center, Guingona cited at least three instances when the military detainees were accorded sub-human treatment.

“An ailing Lt. Belinda Ferrer, aide to Gen. Renato Miranda has been requesting medical treatment for months now but her request has not been acted upon to date. Maj. Jason Aquino has been in solitary confinement for five months while Maj. Dante Lancit had also been under solitary confinement for the last ten months for no valid reasons,” Guingona said.

“The military officers are trying to make it appear that the detained officers have access to the camp’s physical fitness facilities by boring a hole on the fence separating the detention cell and the basketball court during an inspection conducted by the committee. But, after the inspection, we were informed that the hole leading to the basketball court was closed again,” he added.

The 28 military detainees as well as military officials including Yano were invited to the hearing but none of them appeared.

Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro sent a letter to Speaker Prospero Nograles informing the latter that the invitation for the 28 detainees “may not be honored at this time” because “their case is still pending before a military court and in fact, actively undergoing trial proceedings.”

Teodoro further wrote that he “share(s) the AFP’s position that the appearance of the subject officers before the committee” may result in “undesirable consequences” and “might set a bad precedent” in the military justice system.

Guingona in a privilege speech last February, exposed the alleged maltreatment of the military detainees.

He also called for an investigation by the chamber of the alleged abuses by military officers of Querubin and other detainees.

Last Sunday, Yano was quoted as saying he would “not hesitate to surrender” military personnel who will become suspect in human rights abuses and would “make sure that those involved will have to answer.”

“Yano himself said commanders are answerable to charges of human rights abuses by virtue of the principle of command responsibility,” Guingona said.

Meanwhile, Yano has ordered the surrender of a soldier said to be responsible for the killing of a labor leader in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province in 2005.

The suspect was identified as Pfc. Roderick de la Cruz, who allegedly shot Ricardo Ramos, then president of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union on October 2005.

De La Cruz was turned over by military operatives to the National Bureau of Investigation last May 21. The suspect was nabbed by the Presidential Task Force Against Political Violence.

The killing at the Hacienda Luisita took place during the stint of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as 7th Infantry Division (ID) commander in Central Luzon.

De La Cruz was then assigned to the 24th IB and under the 7th ID led by Palparan.

As this developed, the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) also dared newly-appointed Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Leila de Lima to file criminal charges against Palparan in connection with the spate of political killings and enforced disappearances.

Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said as far as his group is concerned, complaints regarding extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses were filed against the controversial general before the CHR, but nothing has been done to address the relatives and colleagues’ demand for justice.

“The CHR has received and continues to receive complaints concerning political killings and other forms of human rights atrocities against Palparan and his men. But the commission failed to act even on single case. It is now the chance of the CHR chairman to prove her worth as a true defender of human rights. She should grab this opportunity or she will lose relevance if any,” Hicap said.“Let me set the record straight. General Palparan is accused of masterminding the reign of terror and scores of extrajudicial killings and enforced abductions in Mindoro Island, Eastern Visayas and Central Luzon, and complaints were lodged before the CHR. These complaints provided by testimonies of witnesses, legal, straight and circumstantial evidences, which merit the filing of charges, prosecution and eventual punishment of Palparan,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

The fisherfolk group filed a P20-million libel case against Palparan for allegedly singling out Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party-list group in the government’s counter-insurgency plan.

The controversial Army general said the leaders and members of both groups are creating trouble along the coastal areas of the province by intimidating civilians into joining the New People’s Army and are supposedly collecting P50,000 from fish pond operators monthly.

The Quezon City prosecutor’s office sent a subpoena to Palparan to attend the preliminary investigation on June 19, but the retired Army officer said he has yet to receive the same.

Pamalakaya lamented the CHR, since 2001, never issued a statement condemning the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and Oplan Bantay Laya II, which invoke the national policy on political killings and enforced disappearance as means to neutralize aboveground groups and persons allegedly identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Charlie V. Manalo and Gina Peralta-Elorde

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