Tuesday, February 07, 2012

AFP: Military not remiss in acting on rights abuses

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through its Human Rights Office (HRO) met with a representative from New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) Friday to respond to the latter’s allegations of military involvement in human rights abuses.
In a statement, Col. Domingo J. Tutaan, AFP HRO chief, said he told journalist Carlos H. Conde, also the HRW’s researcher for its Asia division, that his agency had not been remiss in acting on complaints against military personnel accused of human rights violations.
“For the year 2011, my office has received and documented a total of 59 official complaints that we promptly addressed and reported to the higher authorities,” Tutaan said.
In July 2011, the independent HRW released a report citing seven human rights violation cases allegedly involving AFP members based on interviews conducted in 11 provinces.
Tutaan said his office had talked to HRW’s Jessica Evans and Elaine Pearson to ask for more information so that it might be able to conduct a deeper investigation. “However, no data was given,” the official said.
Due process
“But even so, the AFP is not taking this hands down,” he said.
“As a result of investigations initiated by the AFP, two of the military personnel involved in a killing incident in Negros Occidental in June 2010 have been placed behind bars in the Himamalayan city jail,” he said.
“We are with the HRW and other independent organizations in putting a just resolution to these cases but we must bring them to the courts to undergo due process,” he said.
Tutaan cited Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure which states that prosecution could only start when a formal complaint or a sworn statement by the complainant had been filed before the appropriate authorities.
“No formal complaints were filed in the cases cited by the HRW in its report therefore prosecution did not commence,” he said.
Military justice system
“We go by our military justice system but the AFP is not a prosecutory body. We can only go as far as undertaking disciplinary actions such as dismissal from the military service and privileges but once an involved soldier goes outside military bounds, the final say will come from the higher civilian court,” Tutaan said.
The official urged the HRW to work hand in hand with the AFP to stop human rights abuses.
“I am with the HRW to prosecute whoever it is from our organization that violates human rights. The AFP is right there at the helm to cooperate with the proper authorities to bring justice, above all,” he said.
Protectors of the people
In the statement, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa said: “It is embodied in our IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) Bayanihan that as protectors of the people, we must always promote the protection of human rights and adherence to international humanitarian law.”
“This is why we are continuously strengthening our Human Rights Office which has been replicated down to the battalion level to address human rights issues and concerns,” Dellosa said.
3:17 am | Sunday, February 5th, 2012

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