Gabriela skewers DND budget over rights abuses

Tue, 09/27/2016 - 16:59 -- gwp_prop

27 September 2016 - With a demand for a thorough investigation into the involvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary proxies in killings, land disputes, and violations of Duterte's ceasefire order, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus questioned the huge 2017 budget (PhP135 billion) for the Department of National Defense during today's plenary deliberations on the General Appropriations Bill.

De Jesus enumerated many cases of agrarian conflicts where the AFP units imposed their presence and intervention. She highlighted the case where unidentified units of either the Army or the Marines in Coron, Palawan accompanied a private guard employed by the Bureau of Animal Industry when he shot farmer leader Arnel Figueroa. The Gabriela solon wants the DND to make its personnel desist from providing protection for the disputed Yulo King Ranch and bring them to disciplinary actions.

The DND responded with the claim that no soldier was officially assigned to the area and present during the incident in question.

"Iniimbestigahan pa ang masaker ng mga magsasaka sa Fort Magsaysay noong September 3 na kumitil ng buhay nina Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado at Gaudencio Bagalay na pawang mga miyembro ng Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon. Gayundin hindi maitatangging ang patuloy na operasyon ng militar, ang pagpatay sa mga magsasaka, ang pananatili sa mga lupain ng mga katutubo ay mga usaping tiyak na makasasagka sa nagaganap na usapang pangkapayapaan," De Jesus said in her interpellation at the floor.

De Jesus also said the DND budget should be predicated on the agency making clear, definite plans and reports on the AFP's implementation of the unilateral ceasefire with communist guerillas, saying that the ceasefire is in reality riddled with feedbacks from citizens' groups about recurring violations, for instance, the forced recruitment of men accused of rebel activity into its paramilitary gangs in the Cordilleras.

"At an appropriate time, I will move to delete the budget for paramilitary groups in line with President Duterte's pronouncements that they be pulled out, demobilized, disbanded and defunded," De Jesus added.

The women's rights defender express her concern for the persistent harassments, sexual violence and surveillance inflicted by the military and paramilitaries on women and children.