The Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted that it is affected by allegations linking the AFP to cases of human rights violations, particularly incidents of enforced disappearances and summary executions.
But although they are hurting from the allegations, the AFP said they would institutionalize efforts to remove the stigma and change the way the public views the military organization.
Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP public affairs office chief, told The STAR that the newly created Human Rights Office led by Col. Feliciano Loy is part of the military’s efforts to show the public that any infraction committed by its personnel will not be condoned or tolerated.
Torres said that aside from investigating soldiers allegedly involved in cases of human rights violations and receiving complaints, the AFPHR office is also tasked to educate military personnel on human rights.
He said the AFP is affected by these allegations, which somehow hurt those who remain true to their mandate to protect the people.
“A big portion of these allegations is propaganda, being fanned by groups who are continuously trying to weaken the government. These are groups who want to bring down the government and supplant it with their own brand of government,” he said.
Torres also warned that by continuously putting the spotlight on the military and other government security agencies, there is a chance that the real perpetrators of these so-called human rights violations might go scot-free.
“Security forces are convenient scapegoats. This makes the investigations narrower and prolongs the resolution of the cases,” he said.
Torres said that there had been several instances in the past where it was proven through further investigation that the allegations were mere fabrications of groups who want to discredit the government and the AFP, which is an instrument of national policy.
But Torres also admitted that there are some soldiers who might have, on their own, committed some human rights violations, although these cases have already been submitted to the proper courts, civilian and military alike.
“The number of those who have committed these violations would be dwarfed by the number of military personnel who are willing to lay down their lives in the performance of their duties,” he said.
At the same time, Torres belied claims by some groups that the AFP is drumbeating the issue on the recruitment of minors by the New People’s Army just to discredit the rebel movement.
He said documents would show that even the United Nations has recognized the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as organizations that recruit minors. –James Mananghaya, Philippine Star