1994-12-20 00:00:00

While recorded figures show a decline in human rights abuses, as commonly defined, in the Philippines, human rights advocates say violations have taken on the new form of development aggression.

Some 1,000 rallyists here in the southern Philippines and 2,000 in Manila pointed to the government´s targeted rapid development of the countryside through industrialization as the cause of many recent human rights abuses.

The rallies were held Dec. 10 to mark Human Rights Day.

The government Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Mindanao released that day a report showing that the number of human rights cases on the island dropped by 39 percent from last year´s 204 to this year´s 124.

According to the CHR, police were named violators in 75 of the cases, the Communist-led New People´s Army in 28, and the army in 27. Other named violators included members of paramilitary units and government officials.

But organizers of the rally in Davao City said the government violates the collective rights of its citizens when it uproots urban communities and rural villages to make way for development projects.

Since June 30, 1992, when President Fidel Ramos took office, 69,868 people have been displaced in 11,643 cases of forced relocation, said Joel Virador of the Southern Mindanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates.

The forced relocations included demolitions, insurgency war-related evacuations and clearing of rural areas for power and irrigation, mining and commercial tree plantation projects, Virador said.

A Muslim woman speaker at the rally in Davao City, 960 kilometers southeast of Manila, raised the issue of the government fueling communal tensions by making Muslims "scapegoats" for crimes and violence.

Groups such as Abu Sayyaf, Muslim extremists in western Mindanao who have kidnapped civilians and killed security personnel, continue to be mentioned whenever major crimes are being labeled as instigated by Muslims, she said.

Rallies were also held in other Mindanao cities and towns.

A Manila rally led by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines focused on the plight of political prisoners.

About 400 Religious massed at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupe, south of Manila, to show their solidarity with 67 political prisoners who continue to be detained after having been charged by the government with common crimes.

Another Manila rally was staged by about 1,000 Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (new nationalist alliance) members, which also served as a funeral procession for the late Wilfredo Custodio, a League of Urban Poor for Action leader.

In the evening, University of the Philippines students joined Amnesty International representatives in lighting 3,000 candles at a campus park.


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