Aquino’s ‘superbody’ camouflages HR situation ala Arroyo

WOMEN human rights defenders from Tanggol Bayi, Ecumenical Women’s Forum, BAI National Alliance of Indigenous Women, KAMP, International Women’s Alliance and Gabriela today trooped to the Department of Justice in Manila, in time for the global commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.

With their calls expressed in indigenous woven cloth and rituals by indigenous women, they called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Pres. Noynoy Aquino to stop the killings of rights defenders and expressed skepticism over the creation of a “superbody” to investigate the killings and other rights violations.

“Women human rights defenders ask: with 15 women and girl-children killed under Aquino, what can the Aquino’s superbody do, if, by all indications, this merely looks and sounds like just another investigative body akin to former Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s parody of task forces and commissions on rights violations?” said Cristina Palabay, spokesperson of Tanggol Bayi and secretary general of Karapatan.

Palabay said human rights groups’ experience during the Arroyo administration bears out that the creation of investigative bodies did not really put a stop to the violations and were instead used as “camouflage” for the government’s posturing that it is addressing the issue. Worse, she stated, the killings have continued and the investigative bodies have not prosecuted any of the perpetrators and their masterminds.

Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 cases of enforced disappearances under Arroyo.

“In the first place, Aquino did not have to stall and wait for the creation of this ‘superbody’ to solve the killings and violations. He could easily make use of his mandated agencies and the courts. The creation of the ‘superbody’ only benefits the government’s PR scheme and will not truly serve justice for the victims and their kin,” commented Palabay.

“How can Aquino’s superbody deliver justice for Juvy Capion, Marilou Valle, Marlina Sumera and all women human rights defenders who were killed by the state security forces, when even the barest form of justice for Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, Benjaline Hernandez and Eden Marcellana—whose  cases have received favorable recommendations from the United Nations—have not been given by the GPH?”

Palabay said women human rights defenders are violated twice with Aquino’s superbody. “The military and other state security forces have killed and threatened them. And now we are made to believe that the military will investigate their own misdeeds and come out with credible judgment?”

Women indigenous leaders Bae Adelfa Belayong, Bebeth Calinawan and Anelfa Gemilo also joined the rally, as they lead the first batch of the Manilakbayan delegates from Mindanao. The Manilakbayan is composed of some 70 indigenous peoples, farmers, church people and victims of human rights violations who are coming for the Human Rights week activities in Metro Manila.

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