CHR clarifies it is investigating rights violations done to Marawi evacuees, not terrorists’ death

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The Commission on Human Rights has clarified that its investigation in Marawi City is focused on the alleged violations of the rights of its displaced residents, and not on the killing of Maute Group leader Omarkhayam Maute and senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

This developed after a news report on Wednesday indicated that the CHR would look into whether the Armed Forces of the Philippines had violated any rights in the killing of Maute and Hapilon, supposedly citing CHR legal counsel Atty. Gemma Parojinog.

CHR spokesperson Jackie de Guia, interviewed on radio station dzXL on Thursday, said Parojinog was misquoted, and that what she had meant was simply that the CHR’s monitoring of the events in Mindanao will continue.

De Guia added that they had not perceived any violations yet in the incident involving the deaths of the terrorists in Marawi City.

She explained that, after the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the CHR received complaints, such as those filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the rights group Karapatan, regarding alleged violations of the rights of Marawi residents, which was why the CHR has been monitoring the situation continuously.

On Wednesday, News Light quoted Parojinog as saying, “Kahit sino may karapatang pantao (Everyone has human rights),” including criminals.

“Ang tinitignan ng komisyon is that na-follow ba yung rules of engagement sana para ma-ensure na ‘yung karapatan ng mga nasa kabila ay na-respeto rin (What the commission is looking into is whether the rules of engagement were followed so as to ensure that the rights of those on the other side also have, were respected, too),” she is seen saying on the video that News Light posted on its Facebook page.

The video got over a million views, over 20,400 shares, over 19,300 comments, and over 12,000 reactions – most of which were angry.

Those who watched the video did not hold back.

Elsa Maloloy-on San Diego commented, “Mga animal kayo… kaya pala ang kinakampihan niyo ay mga animal din tulad nyo! …CHR demonyo kaya naaawa sila sa kapwa nila demonyo (You are animals… no wonder you side with animals like you! … CHR is a demon, which is why it pities its fellow demons).”

Ginel Alvarez said, “Alam niyo CHR mga bwisit kayo! Dapat sa inyo buwagin na talaga. Paano ‘yung napatay din ng mga Maute na mga sibilyan at mga napatay na sundalo? …Nakakakulo na kayo ng dugo. ‘Di na nga kayo nakakatulong sa bayan, super duper over pa kayo sa perwisyo. Kaya dapat lang talaga na ‘di kayo bigyan ng pondo ng gobyerno dahil perwisyo kayo. Mga walang utak ba talaga kayo (You know, CHR, you’re a nuisance! You should really be dissolved. What about the civilians and soldiers killed by the Maute? …You make my blood boil. Not only are you not helping the country, but you’re being a super duper over-nuisance, too. That’s why the government really shouldn’t give you any funds because you’re a nuisance. Don’t you have brains)?”

Michael Belarte added, “Pakisampal nga ako nang bahagya kay ate. Bakit binibeybi nila mga kriminal? ‘Yung sundalo namamatay sa Marawi para maayos lang ang gulo, wala sila pakels. Maganda niyan mga CHR na lang paayusin ng mga problema palit sila ng PNP at AFP (Can someone slap her for me a little bit? Why are they babying criminals? Soldiers are dying in Marawi just to fix the mess, and they don’t care. What they should do is get CHR to fix the problems and replace the PNP and AFP with them).”

In the same report by News Light, Parojinog says the CHR hopes the government will consider lifting martial law in Mindanao, since there is no longer any threat to it.

In the radio interview on Thursday, De Guia further clarified that the CHR was monitoring the “poor conditions in evacuation centers, access to social services… ‘yun ang ginagawa nating effort na ginagawa natin nuong simula pa lamang… at hindi tungkol sa mga terorista (these are the efforts we have been doing from the beginning, and it’s not about the terrorists).”

She stressed that the agency shared the widespread sentiment of gratitude toward the brave soldiers and policemen who helped liberate Marawi.

“Sa ngayon po, wala kaming nakikitang violation. Base rin po sa aming evaluation, siyempre nandun na rin ang aming pag-congratulate sa ating mga tropa… at sa wakas ay… maaari nang makabalik ang ating mga IDPs sa kanilang bahay (As of now, we are not seeing any violations. Based on our evaluation as well, of course we congratulate our troops… and finally… our IDPs [internally displaced persons] can return to their homes),” de Guia said.

De Guia added that they were also thankful for the successful rescue of abducted priest Fr. Chito Suganob.

Asked about what possible violations of the rights of evacuees the agency is looking at, De Guia explained, speaking in Filipino, that these would pertain to issues of forced evacuation, disruptions to livelihood, children’s schooling, and access to social services.

De Guia added that the past few months, they had been looking at the “overall implementation of martial law – checkpoints, arrests, searches” to see whether troops on the ground were following protocols. “These are some concerns or issues we may be looking at.”

Asked about who will be charged in case of violations detected, De Guia replied that these do not necessarily result in the filing of cases. Often, the CHR gives recommendations, instead.

She pointed out that a proposed IDP Law will award damages to IDPs affected by calamities or armed conflict. Although it has not yet been passed, there is an international humanitarian law that the Philippines is signatory to, in case of outright rights violations.