Rights group demands prosecution of military killers

HUMAN rights group Karapatan called on the government to prosecute members of the military who were reportedly behind the killing of a human rights activist in the province of Negros.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier admitted that two men who were arrested for the killing of Benjamin Bayles are soldiers.

“Based on witnesses and the statements of the arresting police, we have known all along that Bayles was killed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, though retracted by the police and being denied by the military,” said Fred Caña, Karapatan-Negros Secretary General said. “And here is Gazmin’s admission at the budget deliberations on Thursday, straight from the horse’s mouth,” he added.

Pfc. Ronnie Caurino and Pfc. Reygine Laus were arrested for the killing of Bayles, who was shot and killed on June 14, 2010, in Himamaylan City, Negros Oriental.

“This is not the first time that members of the AFP have been identified as perpetrators of various human rights violations.” Caña added.

Karapatan acting secretary general Jigs Clamor said that Gazmin’s admission is proof that the military is behind the death threats and harassment of Caña, a colleague of Bayles, and the legal offensives against Karapatan’s human rights workers.

“Since 2005, Caña has been receiving threats on his and his family’s life for his expose’s of the military’s human rights atrocities in the Negros island.” Clamor said. “We also believe that the approach adopted systematically by the AFP are also the ones slapping trumped-up charges against human rights workers, in attempts to prevent them from documenting and exposing human rights violations, and from aiding the victims.”

Karapatan also demanded that the Aquino government investigate and prosecute the masterminds behind the killing of 16 people since July this year. “We demand who ordered these killings and call on [Aquino] to order the investigations and to render justice to all victims of human rights violations,” said Clamor. D’Jay Lazaro

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