The Philippines: assassination of land rights activist Moises Fuentes

20/07/2012
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) of the killing of Mr. Moises C. Fuentes, a human rights defender from Maramag, Bukidnon. The victim is a member of the Bukindon chapter of Human Rights Defenders Pilipinas. Since 1999, he was also a local leader of the farmers’ organisation Kuya Christian Farmers Association, in Barangay Kuya, Maramag, Bukidnon. His organisation, along with other farmers’ groups, has been struggling to keep the land they till, which is located within the area controlled by the Ocaya cattle ranch in Bukidnon, and later granted to them in 2011 under a government land reform programme (see background information).

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in The Philippines.

Brief description of the situation:

According to the information received, on June 16, 2012, Mr. Fuentes was gunned down by an unknown assailant at his residence in Barangay Kuya, Maramag, Bukidnon at about 1 p.m. in the afternoon. He was shot in front of his wife and died on the spot.

Background information:

A few months before Mr. Fuentes’ killing in June 2012, a message had reportedly been read on a local radio station in Maramag, Bukidnon, listing the names of persons to be killed. The list contained the names of leaders of farmers’ groups, including the Kuya Christian Farmers Association that had successfully petitioned the government to place the Ocaya ranch under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), a state policy that allows the government to acquire and redistribute farmland.

The farmers’ groups have been struggling for three decades to secure entitlement to the land they have been farming on, which is located in a former forest area subsequently converted into a ranch and occupied by the powerful Ocaya family. The land was originally leased in 1986 to a company represented by the late Bukidnon Governor Timoteo Ocaya, under a Forest Land Grazing Lease Lease Agreement (FLGLA), but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cancelled the agreement in 2008 after discovering violations of the terms.

In 2007-2009, several people’s organisations also applied for Community Based Approach Forest Management (CBFM) in the area, which led the DENR to publish detailed maps of the entire area controlled by the Ocaya ranch. After discovering that almost ninety hectares of the area were already available as Alienable and Disposal, people’s organisations, including the Kuya Christian Farmers Association, filed a petition with the office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

On February 22, 2010, DAR distributed fifty hectares out of the 820-hectare Ocaya ranch to the farmers and representatives of five people’s organisations, including the Kuya Christian Farmers Association which was awarded a total of 9.8 hectares.. In May 2010, however, these farmers were forced to leave the area awarded to them after reportedly being harassed by armed guards of the ranch. In December 2011, these farmers were re-installed in the area by the Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) of the DAR.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Philippines authorities urging them to:

i. Order an immediate, thorough, effective and impartial investigation into the assassination of Mr. Moises C. Fuentes, the result of which must be made public, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal sanctions provided by the law;

ii. Provide adequate reparation and protection to Mr. Fuentes’ family;

iii. Comply with all the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:

- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 6.a, which states that "everyone has the right individually and in association with others to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic legislative, judicial or administrative systems",

- Article 12.1, which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms”,

- and its Article 12.2 which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”

iv. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by the Philippines.

Addresses:

· H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, New Executive Building, Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila 1005, Philippines. Fax: +63 2 736 1010, Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80 Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Email: corres@op.gov.ph /opnet@ops.gov.ph

· Hon. Leila M. De Lima Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ) Padre Faura Street
Ermita, Manila, 1000 Philippines Fax: +63 2 523 9548 Tel: + 63 2 521 1908
Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph / doj.delima@gmail.com

· Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue, U.P. Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188 Fax: +63 2929 0102 Email: rosales.chr@gmail.com
Police Director Nicanor Bartolome Chief, Philippine National Police Camp General Rafael Crame Quezon City, Philippines Fax: +63 2 724 8763/ +63 2 723 0401 Tel: + 63 2 726 4361/4366/8763 Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

· Hon. Emilio Gonzalez Deputy Ombusdman Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military And other Law Enforcement Offices 3rd Flr., Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman, 1004 Quezon City Fax: +63 2 926 8747 Tel: +63 2 926 9032

· H.E. Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32, Email: geneva.pm@dfa.gov.ph

· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, 297 Avenue Moliere, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 340 33 77 / 2 340 33 78, Fax: +32 2 345 64 25.

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, July 20, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

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