Monday, September 6, 2010

Scripted denial of rights violations by 34th IB linked to intensifying Oplan Bantay Laya-NDF

Scripted denial of rights violations by 34th IB
linked to intensifying Oplan Bantay Laya

Press Release
Set. 6, 2010

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today assailed the 34th Infantry Battalion for denying its violation of the rights of Cesar and Juanito Gabac, who are being illegally detained and misrepresented as "rebel returnees". "The 34th IB made one of the Gabac brothers speak publicly on radio last Sept. 5 to disclaim any human rights violation," said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. "But this was surrounded by dubious circumstances: under military guard, in the intimidating presence of battalion commander Lt. Col. William Penafiel, and in a blocktime radio program paid for by the 8th Infantry Division and handled by hacks under military spokesperson Lt. Col. Armand Rico. Such a scripted psywar gimmick does not adequately resolve the question of human rights violations, and invites further scrutiny into the military's attempts to manipulate the media and the public."

Fr. Salas reiterated the Gabac brothers are not members of the New People's Army. "They are not in the NPA's roster of Red fighters. If they had been, the NDF-EV would have otherwise still demanded respect for their rights but as prisoners of war, not as the civilians we know them to be. As it is, the military is violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP. The CARHRIHL upholds the rights of civilians as well as those involved in the armed conflict. Even the laws of the reactionary state nominally forbid torture and illegal detention. But the 34th IB insists on misrepresenting the Gabac brothers as Red fighters. The military wants to justify their continued illegal detention, where they are being forced to guide dangerous military operations, and are also used in psywar gimmicks such as in the corruption-ridden Social Integration Program, a cash cow of its military and civilian implementors."

The NDF-EV spokesperson concluded the military's scripted denial of the Gabac brothers' rights is connected with intensifying Oplan Bantay Laya and thus a challenge to the media and the people. "The military is escalating psywar to dress up the dismally unsuccessful and forced to extend Oplan Bantay Laya, as well as brazen out its continuing human rights violations. We believe the 8th ID's broadcast about the Gabac brothers to be clearly unethical and unjust, when they are still under custody and unable to speak out of their own free will. Yet in using a respectable radio station to justify the violations of the Gabac brothers' rights, the 8th ID also wants to drag the media community of Eastern Visayas down to its level of psywar manipulation of the people. Impunity is in the air because the military is trying not just to get away with, but to continue, a decade of human rights violations with a new lease on life under the Aquino regime. Thus the media and the people have to confront this impunity, demand acccountability, and assert justice for the Gabac brothers and other victims of human rights violations under Oplan Bantay Laya."

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