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Honor your parents’ struggle vs. Martial Law through stopping all human rights violations

September 21, 2012

On the 40th commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, the bishops and priests of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG) call on President Benigno Aquino III to meaningfully honor his parents’ struggle against Martial Law, through 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.

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said, “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 Benedict XVI, in his Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2007).

Despite its 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 Aquino government also 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 (Karapatan Quarterly Monitor, 2012).

In Cebu, violent demolition and eviction of urban poor communities have continued; and 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.

We recall the Church’s social teachings on integral development. 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. 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.

Yet amidst increasing human rights violations, we are 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 Empeńo 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.”

Many other government military officials and personnel accused of perpetrating human rights violation continue to enjoy impunity under the current dispensation.

We ask the Aquino Government to denounce Martial Law through doing all it can to stop impunity and stop all human rights violations.

We also challenge ourselves, and everyone concerned. To attain lasting peace, all of us must promote human rights and justice. We are one with Pope Benedict XVI who said, “Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice” (Message for World Day of Peace 2012, Pope Benedict XVI).

As Christ lives,

Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro/
Head Convenor of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG)