MANILA, Philippines – Militant group Bayan has slammed the reported extension of the government’s counter-insurgency program, which has been blamed for the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under the previous Arroyo administration.
“This is really a very disappointing development. The extension of ‘Bantay Laya’ places a huge question on the Aquino’s administration’s commitment to human rights,” Bayan secretary general Renat Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
Reyes said Bantay Laya does not distinguish between armed and unarmed activists. Rather, the program considers legal activist organizations as front groups of the Communist Part of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, according to human rights advocacy groups.
“Under Mrs. Arroyo’s term, some 475 activists were killed. The present government cannot dismiss these deaths as unrelated. Clearly there was a pattern. The methods and circumstances of the killings were similar. These happened for the most part under Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2,” Reyes said.
The group also urged the Aquino administration to make accountable officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the killings and disappearances under the Arroyo government.
“No matter how much the AFP talks about human rights, until officers involved in past abuses are made accountable, the AFP will merely be engaged in empty talk. How can the soldiers respect human rights when they know that human violators are not held accountable anyway?” Reyes said.