AFP acts swiftly on human rights cases

February 5, 2012 11:41 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Feb. 4 –The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) acts with dispatch all reported human rights cases involving military personnel.

Col. Domingo J. Tutaan, chief of the AFP Human Rights Office (HRO), told Carlos H. Conde, a representative of the New York-based Human Right Watch (HRW) for Asia Division, during a briefing in Camp Aguinaldo Friday that for 2011, the AFPHRO received and documented 59 complaints of human rights violations by soldiers and were promptly addressed by reporting these to higher authorities.

The New York-based independent organization published in July 2011 a report citing seven human rights violation allegedly involving AFP personnel. The report was based on interviews the group conducted on 11 provinces in the country.

“It is embodied in our IPSP (Internal Peace Security Plan) Bayanihan that as protector of the people, we must always promote the protection of human rights and the adherence to the International Humanitarian Law. This is why we are continuously strengthening our Human Rights Office which has been replicated down to our battalion level to address human rights issues and concerns,” Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa said.

Tutaan said the AFPHRO has already talked to HRW’s Jessica Evans and Elaine Pearson to present their pieces of evidence for the AFP to conduct deeper investigations.

However, no data were given. But even so, the AFP acted on the complaints, he said.

Tutaan said during the investigation, two soldiers involved in the killing incident in Negros Occidental in June 2010 were arrested and charged in court.

“We are with the HRW and other independent organizations in putting a just resolution to these cases but we must take it to the court and undergo due process of law,” said Tutaan.

Under Rule 110 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, prosecution can only start when a formal complaint or a sworn statement by the complainant is filed before appropriate authorities.

Tutaan said there were no formal complaints filed in the cases cited by the HRW, hence, prosecution did not commence.

The AFP did not honor as well what was implied in HRW’s report that the military failed to conduct investigations and prosecution toward military personnel allegedly linked to human rights violations.

“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 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 HRO chief, however, urged the HRW to work hand-in-hand with the AFP in order to accomplish the same goal of putting a stop to human rights abuse.

“I am with the HRW to prosecute whoever it is from our organization that violated human rights. The AFP is right there at the helm to cooperate with the proper authorities to bring justice, above all,” he said. (PNA) RMA/RBC/utb

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