Friday, February 12, 2016

Bohol gov’t slams fact-finding mission, denies human rights violations

Bohol gov’t slams fact-finding mission, denies human rights violations
Tagbilaran city, Bohol – The provincial government of Bohol has denied incidences of human rights violation alleged by what it called a “self-styled” international fact-finding group.

In a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Sec. Jesus R. S. Domingo of the Office of the United Nations and International Organizations, the provincial government questioned the legality of the international fact-finding Mission (IFFM) created by the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), a non-government organization (NGO).

The province government cited several United Nations (UN) protocols which it said IFFM members violated, “thus the fact-finding group has no legitimacy to conduct any investigation” in Bohol.

“The APC-IFFM is seemingly illegitimate and biased. Its members have not established their competence, experience and expertise in the subject matter,” said Liza M. Quirog, head of the province’s Social, Economic and Environment Management (SEEM) cluster, in the letter.

Quirog said there was no formal order from any national agency on International Affairs received by the provincial government supporting the legitimacy of the APC-IFFM’s presence and purpose in the province nor any international organization giving them legitimacy to conduct such investigation,
Notwithstanding its doubts regarding the illegitimacy of the organization, Bohol Gov. Edgar M. Chatto and some local officials welcomed the APC-IFFM at the People’s Mansion.

After meeting with Chatto, APC-IFFM members, led by Rafael Mariano, chairperson of the militant peasants group Kilusang Magbubukid Ng Pilipinas (KMP), called for a press conference in Cebu City and distributed press statements accusing the provincial government and the military here of human rights violation.

Earlier in 2014, members of the Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) and the Cebu-based Farmers Development Center (FARDEC) accused the military and local officials of human rights violation, claiming they were harassed by the military in a rice mill facility in Trinidad town, Bohol.

Militant farmer groups questioned the establishment of a military camp north of Bohol.

In response to the allegation, Col. Arnulfo Matanguihan, Deputy Brigade Commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in Bohol, clarified that the establishment of the military detachment camp in Trinidad town was due to the request of the people living in the area.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had also asked the Philippine Army for assistance in providing security for agrarian reform beneficiaries which were said to be harassed by members of a militant farmer organization.

In her letter to Domingo, Quirog said the allegations of harassment and human rights violations inside the4 Panaghiusa Rice Mill in Barangay San Vicente, Trinidad town have already been thoroughly investigated by various agencies including the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) Local Monitoring Board (LMB) Fact Finding Team (FFT); the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice through the Provincial Pillars of Justice.
Meanwhile, identified as members of the APC-IFFM were Shonei Takimoto and Hosue Hatae from Japan, L. Muh Sandy from Indonesia, Roy Rodrigo from Sri Lanka, and Raja Mujeeb from Pakistan.
The military said the background and origin of the alleged members of the IFFM were unverified.

Quirog said two IFFM members “cannot present a visa or passport” when military officials here asked for those documents.

The provincial Capitol also asked how these foreign nationals could conduct an investigation in Bohol without the presence of a local interpreter, which is a UN requirement for an NGO doing an investigation.
“We did not receive any document as proof that the APC-IFFM informed the national government, either the Office of the President or any national agency mandated to receive groups like this, that the mission will take place,” Quirog said in her letter.

“Worse, the organizers include FARDEC and HUMABOL whose members are the subject of the investigation. Was there another organizer or member of the IFFM who came from other legitimate NGOs in Bohol?” Quirog asked.


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