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PHILIPPINES: Another four activists face threats in General Santos City

July 12, 2006

[NOTICE: The AHRC has developed a new automatic letter-sending system using the "button" below. However, in this appeal, we could not include e-mail addresses of many of the Philippine authorities. We encourage you to send your appeal letters via fax or post to those people. Fax numbers and postal addresses of the Philippine authorities are attached below with this appeal. Thank you.]

URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal

12 July 2006
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UA-228-2006: PHILIPPINES: Another four activists face threats in General Santos City

PHILIPPINES: Threats against human rights and political activists; inaction by authorities to ensure their security and protection; inadequate police investigation; violence against women; complete collapse of rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern regarding the safety of another four activists who have received threats from unknown persons in General Santos City, Mindanao. On July 5, activists Shamroud Adulaziz, Blanche Yamba, Bill Andres and Juvy Hornales received threats via SMS (short message service) messages one after another. The message read: “MGA SUPPORTERS NG CPP-NPA-NDF MALAPIT NA MTPOS ANG ARAW NYO - AralSaMasa” (Supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) your days are numbered- AralSaMasa). The sender’s author was purportedly “AralSaMasa” whose number also appears to be +63 9066677136.

The four are all spokespersons working for a human rights organization, the youth sector and a political party in provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City or (SocSkSarGen), all in Mindanao. Adulaziz is the spokesperson for Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights), Yamba for Gabriela Party list, Andres for Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) and Hornales for Anak Bayan.

Prior to the incident, on July 4, a local tabloid newspaper in General Santos City published a news story quoting an intelligence report regarding an alleged emergence of a “death squad” who are reportedly plotting to kill seven leaders of the progressive organisations. It was not known who the source of the story was and a by-line was not provided. All the four, however, are attached to organisations that are reported to have been plotted against.

It was also learned that AralSaMasa sent similar SMS messages to activists George and Maricel Vigo (husband and wife) two weeks before they were killed on June 19. The Vigos were riding on a motorcycle in Barangay (village) Singao, Kidapawan City when attacked by two gunmen riding on a motorcycle (Please see our previous appeal: UA-205-2006). The existence of AralSaMasa or the “death squads” have yet to be investigated.

The four activists had already approached General Santos City Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. and City Council Eduardo Leyson III, chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Peace and Order, requesting their appropriate intervention. Their interventions, if there would be any, have yet to materialise. On July 11, three of the four activists meet Acharon for a dialogue. Despite days having past, no credible investigations have been conducted so far into the threats, existence of AralSaMasa and the reported “death squad”.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The AHRC has reported on a number of activists who are facing serious threats. What is common amongst them is the failure and inaction of the authorities, in particular the police, to ensure their safety and security. Those facing threats have not received any protection that often led to their deaths. When the police do investigate case, the results are often inconclusive and those responsible remain unknown.

Take the case of labour leader Vicente Barrios of Compostela town, Compostela Valley. On June 10, at around 9:30pm an armed man wearing a bonnet forcibly entered his house. The perpetrator, however, said nothing and soon after left. A month after the incident no reports that he and his family were afforded with protection. The perpetrators likewise remain unknown (Please see our previous appeal: UA-191-2006).

No conclusive findings were also reached in the threats made on human rights lawyer Jobert Pahilga and activist Ms. Marissa Dumanjug-Palo. On June 2, Pahilga reported that two men riding on a motorcycle pursued him. On May 31, activist Dumanjug-Palo also noticed four men riding on two motorcycles apparently following her while riding in a taxicab in Quezon City (Please see our previous appeal: UA-178-2006). Those persons reportedly following them have remained unknown.

In another case, those who made threats to Reverend Renato Respicio of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) of Nueva Ecija also remain unknown. Respicio was reported to have received death threats written on a piece of paper during Sunday masses on May 26 (Please see our previous appeal: UA-175-2006). This is similar to the case of Fr. Rolando de Leon of San Andres Apostol Parish, Norzagaray, Bulacan who also received threats on 30 October 2005. Although police investigated the case, they were not able to identify those who made threats to him (Please see our previous appeals on this: UA-219-2005). Respicio and De Leon likewise have not been afforded any protection.

The authorities have likewise failed to provide security and protection to three activists in Baguio City. The activists, namely Windel Bolinget, Joan Carling and Manny Loste have likewise not received any protection despite serious threats on their lives. The threats reportedly began in October 2005 (For details of the case: UA-067-2006). One of their colleagues, Markus Bangit, has already died after he was attacked on 8 June 2006 at a stopover restaurant in Echague, Isabela (Please our previous appeal: UA-191-2006).

The colleagues of slain activists Cathy Alcantara of Abucay, Bataan, who had been receiving threats and was spied upon by armed men, was killed without having received any protection from the concerned authorities. On 5 December 2005, Alcantara was killed (please see: UP-160-2005), two of her colleagues have also been killed in separate attacks. They were activists Audie Lucero who was found dead in Abucay, Bataan on 13 February 2006 (UA-078-2006) and Annaliza Abanador-Gandia of Balanga City who was killed on 18 May 2006 (UP-111-2006).

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned agencies requesting their intervention to ensure the safety and security of these four activists facing threats without delay. An effective investigation must be conducted to identify those who made the threats. Considering the seriousness of the report, it must also be look into why the concerned authorities are failed to inform them or not providing immediate protection, if indeed the report of a plot against them is true. They must give explanation as why they failed to take appropriate action.

To support this appeal, please click:

Suggested letter:

Dear ___________,

PHILIPPINES: Another four activists faces threats in General Santos City

Name of victims facing threats:
1. Shamroud Adulaziz of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights)
2. Blanche Yamba of Gabriela Women’s Party list
3. Bill Andres of Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan)
4. Juvy Hornales of Anak Bayan
All of whom are spokesperson of their respective organisations in the SocSkSarGen area (provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City)
Those responsible for the threats: The sender of SMS (short message service) messages sent by mobile phone number +63 9066677136 was “AralSaMasa”
Date of the incident: On 5 July 2006, all four received the said messages from the same number one after another.

I am writing to express my deep concern in regards to the safety of four activists, namely Shamroud Adulaziz, Blanche Yamba, Bill Andres and Juvy Hornales, who had serious threats from unknown persons on 5 July 2006. I have learned that they all received similar threatening messages from one sender, AralSaMasa, who accused them of being supporters of a communist movement and warned them their days are numbered.

I am extremely shocked to hear of yet another incident of threats and violence targeted at human rights and political activists. As you are aware, a number of activists have had threats on their lives, some of them have been killed and attacked after having received such threats. I have learned that it was also AralSaMasa who sent threatening messages to activists George and Maricel Vigo (husband and wife) two weeks before they were killed in Kidapawan City on June 19. The Vigo’s had not been afforded any security and protection prior to their killing. Their orphaned children have likewise not been afforded any protection. The existence of AralSaMasa, whether it is true or not, have likewise not been investigated thoroughly.

I have learned that despite days having past, the four activists have not been afforded any immediate security and protection. Their concerns regarding the emergence of a “death squad” out to kill some of their colleagues and the existence of AralSaMasa who made threats on them have not been adequately investigated. While I appreciate the assurances given by the local officials, in particular Mayor Pedro Acharon and city councilor Eduardo Leyson III, that nothing will happen to them, I insist that these assurances are empty and not sufficient unless concrete actions are taken to ensure their safety.

I urged that an independent and credible investigation must be conducted to identify those responsible for these threats. Reports regarding the existence of “death squads” and the group AralSaMasa must also be looked into. The authorities must exhaust all effective means of investigation to identify those responsible for plotting and threatening to attack these four activists. Those responsible for releasing the report, whether it is the military or the police, regarding the plot against the activists but actually failed to inform the persons concerned must also be investigated. They must explain why they failed to provide security and protection to the persons concerned despite the seriousness of the report.

It is totally unacceptable that despite the knowledge of the authorities, if indeed the intelligence report as quoted by the media is true, they did not take any appropriate action to ensure the security and safety of these persons. I would like to remind you that it is the duty of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the lives of their citizens, in particular those seeking and in need of protection are indeed protected. Given the situation of the unabated killings of human rights and political activists in the country, any report of threat and plot must be taken seriously and acted upon without delay. Any actions to ensure the safety of those facing threats must be done with the utmost urgency.

I am looking forward to your forthcoming intervention in this case. 


Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Pedro Acharon Jr.
City Mayor
Office of the City Mayor
City Hall Building
General Santos City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 83 552 7231
Fax: +63 83 554 4212

2. Ms. Rosalinda Tolosa
Regional Director
Commission on Human Rights (CHR XII)
Sy Compound, Leon Lldio Street
Barangay Lagao
9500 General Santos City
PHILIPPINES
Tel/Fax: +63 83 553 8887
Cotabato City extension Office
Tel: +63 64 482 0384 / 421 6307

3. Ms. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Email: drpvq@yahoo.com

4. Director General Oscar Calderon
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2726 4361/4366/8763
Fax: +63 2724 8763

5. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Secretary
Department of Justice
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614

6. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Fax: +63 2 736 1010

7. Mr. Ronaldo V. Puno
Secretary
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Voice: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
Fax: +63 2 925 0332
Email: rvpuno@dilg.gov.ph

8. Ms. Hina Jilani
Special Representative of the Secretary General for human rights defenders
Attn: Chloe Marnay-Baszanger
Room 1-040
OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 93 88
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS)
E-mail: cmarnay-baszanger@ohchr.org

9. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Attn: Ms Vernonica Birga
Room 3-042
C/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (ATTN: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN)
Email: vbirga@ohchr.org / urgent-action@ohchr.org


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)


 

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-228-2006
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.