International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
http://www.humanrightsphilippines.net/ inquire@humanrightsphilippines.net

August 9, 2019

Hon Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

E-mail: registry@ohchr.org

Strongest protest at escalated political killings in Negros Oriental, the Philippines

Dear Excellency,

We write to protest in the strongest terms the recent horrific political killings in the Philippines province of Negros Oriental, in which 15 community leaders and a lawyer were assassinated. These killings followed closely the July 11 vote by the UN Human Rights Council to require you to report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

This list is compiled from multiple reliable media sources in the Philippines.

On July 23, 2019, 53-year-old lawyer Anthony Trinidad, and his wife Novie Marie were inside their vehicle when two motorcycle-riding assailants shot them in Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental. They were travelling from a court hearing in La Libertad town and going home to San Carlos City. Trinidad was killed, and his wife was seriously wounded. His name was on a hit list publicly displayed by the Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (KAGUBAK) militia.

On July 24, rebel returnee Weny Alegre, and Felimino Janayan, president of United Calango Farmer Association (UCFA) were gunned down in Zamboanguita town, Negros Oriental, on July 24 by four unidentified men on two motorcycles.

On July 25 alone, seven were killed:

· At around 12.55am, Arthur Bayawa, 55, school principal, and his sister Ardale, a 49-year-old employee of the Department of Education, were shot dead while asleep inside their home in Barangay Hibaiyo, Guihulngan City.

· At about 1.40am, armed men forced their way inside the house of Barangay Captain Romeo Alipan Arbole at Larena, Poblacion Guihulngan and shot him multiple times.

Resident Raklin Astorias was shot dead in Guihulngan City.
In Ayungon town, resident Reden Eleuterio was attacked and killed by armed men.
In Santa Catalina town, Marlon Ocampo and his 1-year-old son were shot dead inside their home. His wife and another child were wounded but survived.
On the night of July 26, motorcycle-riding assailants gunned down Fedirico Sabejon, a resident of Barangay 3 in Siaton town, Negros Oriental.

After midnight on July 27, in neighbouring Negros Occidental, Canlaon City Councillor Bobby C Jalandoni (71) and village chief Ernesto Posadas were assassinated in their homes.

Also on July 27, former Ayungon Mayor Edcel Enardecido and a relative, Leo Enardecido, were shot dead by armed men at 2.30am.

On July 28, Canlaon city resident, Ananciancino Rosalita, was gunned down in the public market.

The immediate trigger for this slaughter of civilians was the death of four police officers in a New People’s Army ambush on July 18, 2019, at Brgy. Mabato, Ayungon, Negros Oriental. The police officers were Corporal Relebert Beronio, and Patrolmen Raffy Callao, Roel Cabellon, and Marquino de Leon. Whatever the merits of this military encounter, international law insists that civilians cannot be targets of deadly force in military conflicts.

This July wave of killings follows a pattern already set. A combined police-army operation, called Oplan Sauron, first struck on December 27 last year, when six peasants were killed and fifty arrested at Guihulngan City and two nearby towns in northern Negros.

Then on March 31 this year, 14 peasant leaders in Canlaon City, Manjuyod, and Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, were shot dead by the Philippine National Police Special Action Forces and Regional Mobile Force, along with elements of the 94th Infantry Brigade Philippine Army. Almost all were shot in their beds or outside their homes in the early hours of the morning, as happened on July 27, 2019.

These campaigns are instigated under President Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 issued on November 22, 2018, which ordered more soldiers and police to the Bicol region and the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror.”

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines therefore urges you and the United Nations Security Council to:

* condemn the escalating waves of murder of civilian political figures in the Philippines, in particular the political murder in July this year of at least 16 people in Negros by suspected state security forces
* urge the Philippine government to facilitate the July 11 2019 decision of the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the human rights situation in the Philippines
* urge the Philippine government to facilitate the High Level Mission decided by the International Labour Organisation in June 2019
* urge the Philippine government to stop the vilification and smear campaigns, through red-tagging and terrorist-labelling, against human rights defenders including lawyers
* urge the Philippine government to recall Memorandum Order No. 32 and its escalation of political violence in Negros, Samar, and Bicol, and to cancel Oplan Sauron.
* urge the Philippine government to re-start the formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, for which the Royal Norwegian Government is the Third Party Facilitator.

The Philippines government is a party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and all major Human Rights instruments.

Yours sincerely,

(signed)

Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council,

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

Cc: Cc Mr Antonio Guterres, United Nations; UN Special Rapporteur on EJK; DFAT Desk; Senator Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Senator Penny Wong; Senator Richard Di Natale, Andrew Wilkie MHR; Julia Dean; Ret Gen Carlito G Galvez Jr, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Ret Maj Gen Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary, Dept of Defence; Mr Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice; Mr. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights.