Philippines: Human Security Act to lead to more military presence in urban and rural communities – EMJP

Jun. 20, 2007

MANILA — The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), together with other human rights organizations, raises its voice today in opposing the implementation of the Human Security Act of 2007 or Republic Act 9372 or simply called the Anti-Terror Law.

We believe that this law will just put the Filipinos at the mercy of the State and its military, which, through the Anti-Terror Council, has the sole authority to determine who among us can be called “terrorists”.

As advocates of peace, we are against this law as it will justify the continued militarization of our communities. With this law, virtual martial rue will be imposed over the civilian populace, as the military will be given wide powers of “fighting” so-called terrorists.

We have seen how fear is instilled among the people in the communities in various provinces like Nueva Ecija, Sorsogon, the Eastern Visayas region, Compostela Valley, the Caraga and Western Mindanao provinces, among others, by the presence of virtual military rule in these areas. The extrajudicial killings, disappearances, bombing of communities and forced evacuations as well as torture and harassments of civilians just suspected or labeled as members of “fronts organizations” or suspected to be outright members of “communist groups or the NPA’s,” have already victimized thousands of our countrymen under the Arroyo regime, even without this dreaded draconian measure. We fear the worsening of this already horrible state of human rights if the Anti-Terror law will be allowed to take effect on July 14.

Militarization in the rural areas takes the form of what the military calls Barangay Defense System (BDS) in rural communities. They claim its legitimacy under Executive Order #21. Such a mechanism they say is very vital in crushing the armed insurgency in the country. These BDS’ are military checkpoints manned by civilian residents and military men who set up the checkpoints.

Likewise, each household is required to “volunteer” a member of their family to man the said checkpoint 24 hours a day and to provide the logistical need of that person ( i.e. food). They are not paid to do this job.

In Castilla, Sorsogon, prior to the elections, the community was told by government soldiers supervising the BDS that after the elections the BDS will become a Barangay Defense Force, where each BDF will be given arms.

These BDS’s regulate the movement of the people in their own communities, requiring each one to own a resident certificate or a sedula which is used as some sort of ID to enter or exit one’s own community and requiring each one to sign up in logbooks on every BDS they stop over. Bags are also inspected.

In the urban poor communities, military presence is still felt. Some soldiers have remained. They just don’t wear their uniforms and are disguised as “residents” who live in rented shacks. There is also the Barangay Intelligence Network, which was instilled by the previous Civil Military Operations Group, to watch out for those they have identified to belong to progressive people’s organizations.

Through the Human Security Act, we will not see the last of these repressive forces that are out not to protect us but to further instigate human rights violations with the blessings of such a law.

We continue to state that military presence has done nothing good to the people in the urban and rural communities but have been in fact the source of terror in their hearts and the cause of human rights violations against peace loving citizens.

We do not need the soldiers in our communities who sow terror in our hearts, what we need is to be left to live our lives peacefully and our rights to be respected. Thus, the anti-Terror Law, which will justify more military presence, must be scrapped. ###

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