Aquino gov’t denies proper medical attention, puts ailing political detainees “on death row,” says SELDAPress Release October 8, 2013
Rights group SELDA said that by deliberately denying proper medical treatment on ailing political detainees, the Aquino government is “putting them on death row.”
This is all in a stark contrast of what the Aquino is treating Janet Lim-Napoles, an accused plunderer involved in multi-billion pork scams, now billeted in Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa City enjoying the comfort and amenities of the rich and (in)famous, according to the group.
“We are enraged at the double standard treatment of inmates under the Aquino administration. Political prisoners who are victims of false and trumped-up charges are treated like dirt in prison facilities. While, according to them, those who skimmed government funds with the collaborations of certain high government officials are given with the most elaborate security, high food allowances, air-conditioned rooms, regular monitoring of medical status, easy communication with the outside world, liberal visiting procedures, among other privileges. Surely, this is how the government treats one of its own – in a crook’s prison haven, while political prisoners rot in hellish prison holes.” SELDA national coordinator Jigs Clamor said.
Clamor added that by continuously denying them to be treated immediately and properly given medical care, the government is endangering more lives of political prisoners. Many of them, according to SELDA, have medical conditions that, if left untreated, are vulnerable to more serious complications of diseases.
SELDA is calling for immediate attention as another political prisoner, peasant organizer Ramon Argente, 53, needs an immediate coronary artery bypass surgery to save him from coronary heart disease. He is confined at the Philippine Heart Center since September 26.
“Argente, among other political prisoners, has not been even proven guilty of the trumped-up charges filed against them. His rights, along with his co-accused have been violated since day one of arrest. They were arrested without warrant, held incommunicado for days after their arrest, and denied of counsel – all of which are violations to their right to due process, freedom and safety,” Clamor said.
Argente, along with union organizers Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, have been charged with several and varying counts of murder, theft and frustrated murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. A total of 32 individuals were included in the said charges, where four have been arrested including Vegas, Camposano and Argente.
The charges are said to be in connection with their alleged participation in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Maot, Labo, Camarines Norte in the eastern part of Luzon, April 29.
Millions for plunderers, centavos for political prisoners
The group also decried the continuous denial of the government to pay for the hospitalization expenses of political prisoners. For heart bypass alone, Clamor said that the family of Argente is asked to raise around Php700,000.00.
“By all means, these should be shouldered by the state. This amount cannot even be compared to what the government is spending to take care of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Napoles. We pay for every single centavo to save lives of plunderers and wrongdoers, while we let those wrongly accused die from crimes they did not even commit. This is injustice at the very core,” Clamor said.
Argente is one of the 48 ailing political prisoners that need proper and immediate medical attention, according to SELDA. One of them, Alison Alcantara, died last month due to fatal arrhytmia, sepsis and health associated pneumonia.
“His life could have been saved if only he was accorded of his rights to healthcare as a prisoner,” Clamor said.
SELDA is calling on the release of all sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds, including those who have served a long time in prison.
“This is also the reason why SELDA joins the growing movement for the abolition of all forms of pork barrel. The government should allot and re-channel the pork barrel funds to improve prison conditions in detention centers all over the country, among other basic social services which should be provided to the people,” Clamor said. ###
Reference: Jigs Clamor, SELDA National Coordinator, 0917-5965859
Lawmakers on Monday lauded the signing of a landmark measure providing compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law era, saying the law serves as a recognition to all those who fought the dictatorship of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, an author of the measure who was himself tortured during the Marcos dictatorship, described the signing of the law as a “victory” for all Martial Law victims.
“At last, the long wait for the Martial Law victims is over. This is a victorious day for those who have awaited and fought for the State’s recognition of their suffering under Martial Law,” Colmenares said in a statement.
He added that the Marcos compensation law should also serve as a reminder to the youth to always be “vigilant” against violations of human rights in the country.
Earlier in the day, President Benigno Aquino III signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, in time with the 27th anniversity of the EDSA People Power Revolution, which toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.
Under the new legislation, P10 billion in funds from the alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses will be used to pay the victims.
‘Recognition of heroism’
In separate statements, Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Francis Escudero, co-authors of the Marcos compensation law, also lauded the passage of the landmark measure.
“As one of the co-authors of this law, I personally see this law as a recognition of the heroism that was widespread during the Martial Law: a heroism that rang across hills and blazed through the streets of this country,” Guingona said.
“It is only when we remember the atrocities, the injustice, and the abuses that went on in our past that we, as a nation, can continue to fight against attempts to resurrect these evils. Our memory of Martial Law, kept alive and strong, will ensure that we will never have to suffer the same fate ever again,” he added.
Escudero, who sponsored the measure as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, likewise said that the signing of the reparation law gives “true meaning” to the celebration of the EDSA revolution.
“While it took all of 27 years for the state to finally recognize the atrocities it inflicted on Filipinos whose democratic rights were suppressed under Marcos, the compensation law seeks to give justice to victims of the dark days of oppression and hopefully give an assurance that it will not happen again,” he said.
The group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), for its part, likewise welcomed the signing of the Marcos compensation law, but warned of “attempts to distort, sometimes even completely erase from the memory of our people, the dark days of the dictatorship.”
“There are those among the architects of martial law who remain scot-free and unpunished. The most notorious culprits have been allowed to regain their political power and influence,” the group said in a separate statement.
SELDA, which led the filing of a class suit by Martial Law victims in a Hawaii court, likewise said that it will closely monitor the implementation of the new law.
“We dedicate this small victory to all martial law martyrs and heroes who have gone before us. We will continue to honor them, as we ensure that this law shall be implemented to the best interest of the victims and the Filipino people who survived martial law,” it said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an author of the measure whose brother was a victim of enforced disappearance during the Marcos regime, meanwhile said that the compensation bill “completes the trilogy of legislative human rights measures.”
In 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Anti-Torture Law. Last year, President Aquino enacted the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. —KG, GMA News
As the nation commemorates the 27th anniversary of the People Power 1 uprising, human rights group Karapatan today said that “the Noynoy Aquino government’s commemoration is completely an empty exercise meant as a window-dressing for the administration’s dismal human rights record.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said 27 years after Edsa 1, human rights violations continue to be committed with impunity through Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted to 137 victims of extrajudicial killings, 14 cases of enforced disappearances, 498 victims of illegal arrests, among others.
“It is appalling that Aquino projects himself as a promoter of human rights and democracy, while those under his command, especially in the military and police, commit human rights abuses to quell the Filipino people’s growing discontent over his administration’s anti-people economic and social policies,” Palabay said.
Karapatan notes that notorious human rights violators since the Martial Law period up to present have not been fully made accountable for their grave crimes against the people and that they have instead sustained their hold onto powerful positions in government.
“The signs that impunity prevail are very visible – from the Marcoses and Martial Law implementor Juan Ponce Enrile, the non-arrest of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., and Aquino’s promotion of torturers and abductors such as Gen. Eduardo Año,” she added.
Palabay said that the “Edsa 1 uprising is a cumulative articulation of the Filipino people’s aspirations against the Marcoses’ tyrannical rule, the utter disregard for human rights, the sheer greed of the society’s ruling class for money and power, and the hapless bludgeoning of the poor Filipinos into the mire of poverty.”
“Edsa 1’s most relevant and significant lesson teaches us that meaningful and thoroughgoing societal change does not mean the mere change in the names and faces of tyrants but the claim of the majority of the poor and marginalized Filipinos to the arduous struggle for human rights, justice, freedom and national democracy,” she concluded. ###
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831 Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580
Streetwise* | Business World By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
In memoriam: Atty. Eduardo G. Araullo (1947-2013)
This column has been absent for some time due to health issues confounding its writer. The prolonged leave from political and social activism and the lengthy pause from writing a weekly column in this paper had given rise to an unfamiliar ennui.
The untimely and completely unexpected demise of human rights lawyer, Atty. Eduardo G. Araullo, last January 19 – a person who had been held in esteem by his co-workers, friends, relatives and even acquaintances, as an upright man, a patriot and a social reformer – prompts me to once more string words together, to find meaning, and draw comfort and not a few lessons, from his uncommon life.
Ed Araullo could be compared to the proverbial elephant whose nature several blind men had been trying to figure out by touching different parts of its body but in the process missing out on the whole.
For it seems there is a piece of him there for his very wide social circle that includes high government officials and functionaries; revolutionaries (current and ex-); bishops, priests and nuns; and ordinary folk he had been able to extend a helping hand to at one time or another. They gathered at his wake – an interesting mix of people high and low, cutting across social classes, philosophical orientations and political persuasions and pretensions.
Ed came from a middle-class family, the seventh in a brood of nine children. He and his siblings were raised in Guagua, Pampanga and Malabon by unassuming parents who put a premium on honesty, hard work, discipline, frugal living and clan solidarity to achieve success in life.
He studied in De La Salle University from elementary to high school where he formed his bonds with lifelong friends and imbibed Christian and humanitarian ideals.
Upon entering the University of the Philippines, Ed became a Marxist student radical in the late sixties and early seventies. He was an indefatigable recruiter of students into the Nationalist Corps who then went on to become more mature national democratic or “ND” activists in Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and Kabataang Makabayan.
He was a well-known fixture in student politics, an indomitable behind-the-scenes figure helping to engineer the victories of “ND” activists in the hotly-contested student council elections.
Ed joined the underground movement upon the declaration of martial law. He was arrested, tortured and illegally detained like thousands of other youth during that time. When he was released he continued his law studies and went on to become a labor lawyer in the true sense of the word, lawyering for and in behalf of workers and trade unions.
As the resistance to the Marcos dictatorship intensified and became more widespread, human rights violations by state security forces mounted. Professionals such as teachers, lawyers and doctors began to stir from their apolitical slumber to defend peasants, urban poor and workers who were bearing the brunt of the fascist dictatorship’s attacks.
Atty. Araullo, together with other young progressive lawyers, joined hands with stalwart nationalists and civil libertarians such as Senator Jose W. Diokno, to establish the first lawyers’ human rights organization FLAG (Free Legal Assistance Group). Thereafter Ed co-founded and chaired the more political lawyers’ organization MABINI (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism) together with such leading lights as Atty. Rene Saguisag and Atty. (now Vice-President) Jejomar “Jojo” Binay.
Among those who took the time to express their grief and condole with Ed’s family were his pro bono clients, many of them victims of political repression not just under the Marcos dictatorship but also during the so-called democratic regimes that followed.
When the dictatorship fell, Ed helped MABINI lawyer Bobbit Sanchez who was appointed Labor Secretary, and was himself appointed to a post in Geneva, Switzerland. Subsequently, he returned to private life and concentrated on building his law practice and raising his young family.
By some twist of fate, he became the lawyer and friend of Fernando Poe Jr or “FPJ”, the man who would be president of the republic but was cheated of the chance by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
He also became one of the unconventional campaign managers of Makati Mayor Binay when the latter undertook an uphill run for the vice presidency in 2010. (Ed liked to say that he used “united front” tactics in cobbling together the “Noybi” movement that supported “Noynoy” Aquino for president and Binay for vice president.) Mr. Binay achieved an electoral upset to become the current second highest official of the land.
Subsequently, when asked what position he was interested in, Ed refused any government appointment.
Until he was asked to help Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Chair Margie Juico clean up that government agency in order for it to become more effective in delivering charitable aid from state-controlled lottery revenues to the poor and needy. Ed’s deeply-ingrained social reforming streak became agitated and challenged by the offer of public service. He took it on with gusto.
As PCSO board secretary, Ed not only became involved in rooting out corrupt practices ingrained in the agency but in putting in place institutional reforms that would help it become more effective, transparent, and less prone to wastage and graft and corruption.
He became a key witness in the plunder case filed against former President Gloria Arroyo, a job he did not relish but which he dutifully accepted, in order to demonstrate to the PCSO rank and file that the new leadership was running after the big-time crooks that stole the monies intended for charity and not just the small fry.
Ed had expressed several times his desire to be of help in breaking the impasse in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). In fact he said that if this had been the job offered him from the beginning, he would have given it priority. Whenever his help was sought in trying to find ways to overcome obstacles, he readily took discrete steps but unfortunately, the Aquino government’s hardline stance could not be overcome.
In the last years of his life, Ed revealed himself more and more as a staunch patriot, a persistent social reformer, and a helpful and caring friend to his legion of friends and “friends” of friends. He also uncovered his growing spirituality as he invoked biblical references and his faith in a just and kind God to spur on the reforms the new PCSO management was undertaking.
Fortunately, Ed also had the chance to be a loving husband and an inspiration and role-model to his three children – Sarah, Sandino and Joshua – on what it means to be an upright man, in an unconventional, out-of-the-box sort of way.
It is hoped that his life story and example can be shared to other young people so that they may begin to appreciate the kind of meaningful, if unheralded, life one can live as a Filipino and as a human being. #
*To be published in Business World 26-27 January 2013
Photos from Mon Ramirez’ photo albums:
I wrote many years back that, for the martial law torture victims, the “unkindest cut of all” is not in being forgotten but in being misunderstood. The other day, they suffered another legal setback, in yet another instance of foreign courts misunderstanding the role of the extraterritorial adjudication of human rights abuses.
The US court returned the case to us because it lay “within the province of Philippine national sovereignty.” Yet why did the victims turn to American courts in the first place? Because our local courts were loath to act on the victims’ desperate pleas.
In 1995, the human rights victims won $2 billion in damages in a Honolulu court. In that case, 9,500 human rights victims filed suit against the Marcos estate, citing a leading 1980 American case, Filartiga v. Peña Irala, wherein US courts were allowed to try human rights violations committed abroad even when both the torturer and the victim were foreigners (or in legalese, without any jurisdictional link to the forum). To this day, that judgment is largely unenforced.
That is why the victims recently tried to collect some $35 million held in a US bank in the name of a dummy Panamanian corporation formed by the Marcoses in 1972 (the year martial law was proclaimed). However, they were opposed by the Philippine government, which claimed the sum for itself. Our own Sandiganbayan had earlier found that the moneys were ill-gotten wealth purloined by the Marcoses, and declared them forfeited in favor of the Philippine government.
The Philippine Supreme Court has also declared that all the ill-gotten wealth “supposedly originated from the government itself [and to] all intents and purposes belong to the people [and] must be returned to the public treasury.” Thus we encounter the first irony: The human rights victims are pitted against the Filipino people and the government that represents them.
The second irony is that these funds, once recovered, are earmarked for agrarian reform. This will pit the human rights victims against the Filipino peasantry. Each group holds a powerful claim to justice: the peasants to the land they till, the torture victims to the monetary compensation for their suffering. Yet this tug-of-war is by no means inevitable or necessary. Indeed, the two groups should be natural allies because the activists are fighting anyway for peasants’ rights, among their many causes. What sets them against one another? It is actually Philippine law that forces them to claim against the same pot of money. In other words, we could have structured it differently so that it’s not a zero-sum game.
This was not the only time that the victims’ pleas were frustrated by the Philippine government. When the victims tried for “recognition and enforcement of foreign judgment” and tried to enforce the Honolulu award in a Philippine court, our local courts mechanically and unsympathetically levied a stiff filing fee; after all, the filing fee is computed on the basis of the award sought to be enforced, in this case, $2 billion. The martial law victims had to go all the way to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which sustained the victims and held that the local courts had thereby denied them an effective remedy under Philippine law.
The third irony is that, the last time some $384 million was transferred by the Swiss to the Philippine government, it ended up being used in the 2004 “fertilizer fund scam” to fund the presidential campaign of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The foreign court thought it was doing the right thing giving back the money to the Philippine government.
It is significant that today, the leader of the human rights claimants is no less than the chair of the Commission on Human Rights, Loretta Ann Rosales. She said: “I feel rather sad that a historical judgment won for victims of martial law … should be resisted by purely legal arguments, blind to the spirit of the historical judgment: Compensate those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today.”
The final irony for “those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today” is that it is that freedom that has allowed our courts to look the other way. Not a single Philippine court has ever dared hold Ferdinand Marcos liable for the disappearances, torture and arrests under his regime. This has forced his victims to turn to American courts for justice. It has taken a Honolulu court to render them the justice that Philippine courts have failed to give. And now our courts, called upon merely to enforce a judgment that foreign courts have done them the favor of making, have faltered and balked.
More than a quarter-century after the restoration of democracy, it is time for a political solution in the form of a compensation bill passed by Congress. Some have raised the issue of how to rectify injustices suffered in the distant past. Remember that victims of the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II were compensated only under President Bill Clinton, a good 50 years later. The passage of time should not be a problem.
Another “distant past” issue arises when the actual human rights victim has died and the claimant is usually another family member. To start with, a good number of the actual sufferers are still alive and indeed are precisely in the twilight of their years when they direly need the award. But even otherwise, the typical children of the human rights victims rightly deserve to partake of the award since they, too, have suffered a part of the ordeal that their parents endured.
The recent setback before US courts must prod our Congress to finally pass the compensation bill to bring closure to this dark chapter in our nation’s story.