Members of human rights groups Karapatan and Hustisya held a picket protest at the main office of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Quezon City to express their rage over the recent appointment of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Eduardo Año as the new officer-in-charge of the said agency.
The groups slammed the appointment Año for his ‘bloody record of human rights violations” during stint in the AFP. Protesters said that his appointment in the DILG is ‘a badge to kill and arrest more” activists and critics of the Duterte administration.
“The consistent promotion and assignment of Año in key government positions is indicative of the Duterte regime’s design to intensify its repressive policies and its lack of intent to prosecute human rights violators,” says Tinay Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
She added, “Once again, we are reminded that high-ranking officials of the country’s biggest organized crime syndicate – the government – are rewarded for their abuses and rights violations. This is a classic case of how impunity prevails in our country.”
During the rally, Karapatan and Hustisya said Año was one of those charged in a criminal rap filed over the disappearance and arbitrary detention of agriculturist and activist Jonas Burgos in 2011 among other violations.
JL Burgos, brother of Jonas, who was present at the rally said that their family as well as the other families seeking justice against the perpetrators of the tons of rights abuses and extra-judicial killings cases were appalled and frustrated over Año’s appointment.
Burgos also said that Año’s recent assignment worsens the state of the culture of impunity in the country.
“Ang ganyang klase ng tao ay hindi nararapat sa anumang pwesto sa gobyerno. Nararapat siya banyo dahil sa baho ng kanyang record,” said Burgos.
[That kind of person is not fit for any position in government. He deserves the toilet because of his fetid record.]
The group said Año also served as commanding officer of the 10th Infantry Division in Davao City before he became AFP chief. The said division has been known to be notorious for several rights abuses including the Paquibato massacre that killed three Lumads in Davao City in 2015.
Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of Hustisya said, “With Año at the helm of the DILG, the Duterte government is reinforcing the agency’s policy of pinning down civilians and ordinary Filipinos. It has not resolve the war on drugs. It continues to claim more victims. Meanwhile, the Duterte government is hell-bent at further silencing the people.”
She added, “Año will be the main implementer of a more brutal campaign of extrajudicial killings under Duterte’ drug war and arrests and crackdown of activists and progressives as part of the counter-insurgency program.
The groups also saw Año’s appointment as a move that will revive a bounty scheme that was proliferated by the previous administration that resulted to the arbitrary arrest, torture and detention of activists and civilians tagged as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
In 2012, the DILG, along with the Department of National Defense set out a P466 million bounty for 235 individuals accused as communists, but just resulted to a series of arbitrary arrests under alias warrants and civilians jailed for mistaken identity like the case of the security guard, Rolly Panesa last October 2012.
Karapatan and Selda pointed out that last August 2017, a similar scheme was put forward by then-AFP chief Año mounting a P100,000 bounty for suspected communist rebels, which will be implemented by local government units.
Palabay said, “Such policies have added millions to the pockets of the military and the police, at the expense of those wrongfully accused.”
This is a likely scenario of Año’s DILG, with more similar schemes that will start intensify this witch hunt, and is ultimately intended to fatten those in position while people’s rights are trampled and ignored,” ended Palabay.