Friday, May 22, 2009

A Statement from Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao

The AFP’s "Order of Battle": Witchhunting and adulterated lies.

The Union of People's Lawyers In Mindanao (UPLM) strongly condemns the grievously fallacious and ridiculously adulterated lies peddled by the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s 10th Infantry Division as contained in the power point presentation labeled as "JCICC ‘AGILA’, 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT".

The Union views with severe contempt the said "OB" or "order of battle" because it is tantamount to a "hit list" — a death warrant for the personalities named therein.
It is another direct and blatant attack on the peoples’ civil and political rights, particularly for the named activists, human rights workers, lawyers, political leaders, journalists, churchpeople, NGO workers and even performing artists.

Linking them to the so-called White Area Committee (WACOM) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is nothing but another vain attempt by the AFP to vilify and demonize those who are critical of the Arroyo regime and its totalitarian policies. This is a clear violation of existing conventions on human rights and international humanitarian law.

As a voluntary mass organization of lawyers, law students and paralegals, we strongly denounced, in particular, the inclusion in the said "Order of Battle" of the names of the following lawyers, who are either officers or members of UPLM and the other lawyers' group like the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP): Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, UPLM member and Councilor, First District, Davao City; Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate, past IBP-Davao City President, UPLM Secretary General and Davao City FLAG Coordinator.

Atty. Lilibeth Ladaga, uplm member; Atty. Noreen Minette Manatad, IBP-Davao City member but is now practicing in the United States; Atty. Beverly Selim-Musni, Chairperson of Karapatan Northern Mindanao and officer of UPLM Northern Mindanao Chapter; and Atty. Benjamin de Guzman, past IBP-Davao City President and former Davao City Mayor.

The bare denials issued by the AFP's 10th ID failed to negate or even diminish the fact that it has included the names of these personalities and groups in what is purportedly a counter-insurgency report.

While the list was purportedly an assessment made in 2007, yet, the strong suspicion that it is indeed a "hit list" is not unfounded. For instance, Celso Pojas, spokesperson of the Farmers of Association of Davao City was on the list and he was assassinated in May 15, 2008. Also, Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad has experienced being place under surveillance for several instances in her residence.

That the said "order of battle" sends a message of fear is all too apparent. Yet, it also exposes the archaic McCarthyist thinking of the AFP that those who espouse political beliefs or opinions critical to the government's lies, cheating and corruption are "enemies of the state".

And, as "enemies of the state" these persons, even if unarmed and operating within the bounds of the legal system, are fair target or subjects of surveillance, threats, and, worse, for "neutralization" or assassination.

The spike in the cases of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao in the recent months is proof of the continuation of this distorted policy of the Arroyo administration, which has already been criticized, among others, by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.

Thus, as we consider taking concrete legal moves to address this malicious vilification campaign, we are also holding the Arroyo government, particularly the AFP, accountable for any harmful repercussion that may happen to any individual or group that are included In the said "order of battle."

A virtual martial law is now in place in our country, where the AFP continuously reigns supreme and operates under a cloak of secrecy -- undermining our democracy, our civil and political rights.

While this government has already thrown out of the window the genuine essence of the rule of law, we at UPLM vow to continue our duty to resist the continuing attempts to curtail our freedom by the masquerading Arroyo regime.

Any harassment, like this condemnable "order of battle", only emboldens us to continue our avowed duty to be advocates and agents of social change,Finally, even as we condemn this latest attempt of curtailing our democratic rights, we equally strongly demand for the Arroyo government to stop all its repressive actions and heed the various recommendations of the various bodies, including the United Nations, particularly with respect to the protection of human rights and respect for international humanitarian laws.


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