Saturday, September 23, 2006


Pro-Arroyo supporters handling human rights issues

CODAL is seriously concerned that people without any track record for human rights advocacy, such as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Justice Melo and Rep. Bienvinido Abante, are heading human rights bodies tasked with investigating human rights violations of Arroyo government.

Senate should withdraw votes for Sen. Enrile

CODAL condemns the shameless lack of remorse and sensitivity of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile for his role as the implementor of martial law. He misses the point when he justified his role by using the ‘constitutionality’ of martial law, since the issue is not merely whether Pres. Ferdinand Marcos had the power to declare martial law but whether he had the power to close Congress, to conduct political killings, illegally arrest and detain the opposition and enrich his family through graft and corruption. Surely, many of the acts Hitler may have constitutional basis in Germany, but they were crimes against humanity under international law just the same.

CODAL is concerned that an unrepentant martial law executor, without any background or sympathy to human rights, is currently the head of the Senate Human Rights Committee. It is surprising and unacceptable why Sen. Enrile got the vote of the Senate majority to chair a Committee which will deal with issues on political killings, compensation of martial law victims and other human rights concerns.

Due to Sen. Enrile’s lack of understanding of human rights and lack of remorse for his role during martial law, CODAL calls on members of the Senate to withdraw their votes for Sen. Enrile, oust him from his current position and vote for a senator with knowledge of human rights to chair the Senate Committee on Human Rights.

Muddling the issue

CODAL finds abhorrent the attempt of Pres. Arroyo’s administration at pointing to the New People’s Army as responsible for the murder of more than 700 people, considering that the relatives of the victims point to the military as perpetrators while not one of these relatives ever mentioned the NPA as their suspects.

Experienced lawyers know that relatives of the victims will not point to the much feared military if they suspect the NPA. CODAL confidently asserts that Gen. Hermogenes Esperon does not really have any evidence, admissible in court, to prove his claims before the Melo Commission except self serving ‘captured documents’ that no one can verify or testimonies of witnesses whose credibility is not even closely comparable to those of the victim-survivors or their relatives. Gen. Esperon was merely playing a media counter offensive to diffuse criticism from Pres. Arroyo and the AFP.

MELO Commission’s lack of human rights sensitivities

CODAL is seriously concerned that the Melo Commission is contributing to the military’s media counter offensive when it allowed the AFP to explain why they are not guilty of the political killings rather than asking the victims what actually happened. Any serious, competent and genuine fact finding body or court for that matter must first establish the facts of the incident before interviewing the suspects. The prosecutor must first lay the basis of the case before the accused or the respondent is allowed to present his or her defense. This major mistake of the Melo Commission is a serious blow to its already tattered credibility, from which the Commission may not be able to recover. From the conduct and composition of the Melo Commission, it is no longer surprising to expect that it will come out with a decision declaring that there is no evidence proving government involvement in the killings, using the killing of journalists as a basis. It may sacrifice an individual soldier or two as perpetrators but will point to the NPAs and criminal syndicates as the main perpetrators of the killings.

The sinister inclusion of the Committee on Defense and the Public Order Committee headed by former military officers in the House of Representatives’ investigation of the political killings is one more proof of the malicious effort by government to derail the ongoing investigation and discourage witnesses from testifying. Rep. Abante, who chairs the human rights committee, shows his lack of human rights advocacy and sensitivity by inviting former military officers to join in his committee’s investigation.

Pattern of Deception

All these point to the fact that Pres. Arroyo and the military hopes to distract international concern by muddling the issue using supposed killings of the NPAs as a diversion. Such an argument however, is not only irrelevant to the issue of political killings but is an admission on the part of the military of their involvement in the current killings using the analogous principle of ‘negative pregnant’ under the rules of court. It is negative pregnant because instead of proving their innocence of the recent killings, the military argues that the NPAs committed similar killings more than 16 years ago. The rules of evidence require specific denial of a charge and the presentation of evidence to prove such denial rather than using generalities and pointing to the perpetrators of another incident not related to the issue at hand.

CODAL expresses its abhorrence over the contribution of the Senate, the Melo Commission and the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee in this blatant cover up. CODAL asks the victims and the human rights groups to expose this grand design of the AFP and the Arroyo government, so that the search for truth and the real perpetrators of the political killings will not be derailed. CODAL urges human rights groups and concerned governments worldwide to insist that the Melo Commission and congressional human rights committees focus their investigation on the killing of the 752 victims so that the issue of current political killings will be substantially resolved and the death squads stopped from committing more assassinations and extra judicial killings.

Reference Person : Atty. Neri Colmenares

Date : September 23, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Imagine a country attended by thousands of political killings, involuntary disappearances, illegal arrests and harassments, where activist organizations and the media are threatened daily for exposing the truth, where electoral fraud, misuse of public funds, graft and corruption are rampant, where impunity and a complete disregard for the judiciary and the legislature exists, where arrogant military officers hold sway over civilian institutions and a self-serving Constitution is being rammed down the throats of the people by a repressive president. The scenes above do not only refer to the ‘new society’ under Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, but to the ‘strong republic’ under Pres. Gloria Arroyo. Despite the 34 year difference between the two, the similarity is striking.

Proposed Constitution: Absolute Martial Law Powers to the President

CODAL expresses strong condemnation of the move to grant Pres. Gloria Arroyo absolute martial law powers through charter change, especially since Pres. Arroyo’s administration has been charged with gross human rights violations and intolerance with dissent since it came to power in 2001.

Thirty-fours years ago today, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on the ground of ‘imminent danger’ of rebellion. To prevent the president from using such amorphous ground again, the 1987 Constitution subsequently limited the grounds to declare martial law to rebellion and invasion. CODAL finds it abhorrent that the proposed Constitution seeks to reinstate ‘ imminent danger’ of rebellion as a ground to declare martial law, considering the penchant of Pres. Arroyo to consider all forms of criticism against her as destabilization and therefore a threat to national security.

Additionally, while Martial Law has a 60-day life span under the current Constitution subject to an extension only upon approval of Congress, the proposed charter deleted such an important legislative checks and balance mechanism. Furthermore, the power of the Supreme Court to look into the factual basis of a martial law declaration has also been deleted in the proposed Constitution, a return to the martial law experience where the Supreme Court remained powerless to check the abuses of Pres. Marcos. The proposed Constitution, by granting Pres. Arroyo absolute martial law powers unrestricted by legislative and judicial intervention, is not only a throwback to the Marcos martial law Constitution but also another serious threat to the rights and freedoms of the Filipino people.

The Philippines: A Garrison State with the revival of the Marcos Constitution

Despite the overthrow of the Marcos Regime in 1986, the specter of Martial Law continues to haunt the people under the Arroyo regime. With the rampant political killings, growing number of disappearances and escalating human rights violations, complemented by an abuse of power through Presidential Proclamation 1017, CPR and Executive Order 464, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has placed the whole nation virtually under military rule which she seeks to further institutionalize under a new Constitution.

Considering the escalating human rights abuses by the government forces and the military’s lack of respect to civilian institutions, the new Constitution will only formalize martial rule in the country and transform it into a garrison state effectively controlled by the Pres. Arroyo and her military supporters.

CODAL opposes the current move to change the Constitution because its MOTIVATION is not for the benefit of the people but the self-serving interest of Pres. Arroyo and public officials who want to stay in power until 2010 without the mandate of an election, because its CONTENT is anti-people as it formally opens up private lands, public utilities and our natural resources to foreign control and ownership and because the PROCESS employed is not consultative nor participatory as it is being rammed on the throats of the Filipino people though deceit, threats and bribery.

Solicitor General Must Not Participate in Oral Arguments

CODAL is further seriously concerned with the pronouncement of Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura that there is an adequate law to implement the people’s initiative of Sigaw ng Bayan. This turn-around by Solgen. Nachura is surprising since he once filed two bills proposing an initiative law when he was a congressman during the 11th and 12th Congress thereby recognizing the lack of an enabling law for a peoples initiative. CODAL is afraid that the declaration of the counsel for the Respondent favoring that of Petitioner Sigaw will threaten the credibility of the scheduled oral arguments before the Supreme Court. CODAL asks Solgen Nachura not to represent the respondent in this case and, like former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, inhibit himself from a representing a case he does not agree with.

Members of the Legal Profession must take an active stand

The most prominent place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in the greatest issues in life.

On the 34th commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, CODAL calls on lawyers and law students to join the nation in condemning political and civil repression, denouncing human rights violations, opposing charter change in all its forms under the current Arroyo administration, and preempt the institutionalization of a dictatorship.

Uphold Civil Liberties and Human Rights! STOP THE KILLINGS! Oppose CHA-CHA!

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares—Spokesperson
Date : 21 September 2006