The Philippines: Lacson’s appointment as rehab czar, Bonafos promotion worry human-rights advocates

THE human-rights watchdog Karapatan on Saturday scored the appointment of former Sen. Panfilo Lacson as rehabilitation czar and the promotion and designation of Maj. Gen. John Bonafos who was recently appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines’s Central Command chief.

In a statement, Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay expressed fear that the Lacson-Bonafos tandem will lead to more human-rights violations in typhoon-ravaged areas in the Visayas.

The group suspects that President Aquino’s decision was motivated by the administration’s counter-insurgency program dubbed Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan.

“While Lacson’s hands are tainted with the disappearances and torture of activists during the martial-law years and Estrada administration, the new leadership of the Central Command is also accountable to human-rights violations cases,” Palabay said.

Bonafos was assigned in Bohol and Ormoc City to implement the Oplan Bayanihan under the 802nd Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army in 2011-2012. Last year Bonafos was promoted to brigadier general and named commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command based at Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

He was also post commander of Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, where the Armed Forces General Headquarters and the Department of National Defense are located. He was the deputy commander of the 302nd Brigade and the commander of the 15th Infantry Battalion under the 3rd Infantry “Spearhead” Division based in Bohol.

Karapatan said it documented several cases of human-rights violations committed under Bonafos’s command.

In Kananga, Leyte, the 19th Infantry Battallion, a unit under the 802IB, was allegedly responsible for the killing of botanist Leonard Co and his two companions Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez.

In Ormoc City the same unit was reported to be responsible for a series of illegal arrests and detention, harassment of villagers, and the use of chapels, schools and day-care centers as military barracks, endangering the lives of civilians.

In January 2011 at Barangay Santo Nino, Paranas, Samar, the 87th Infantry Battalion, also a unit under the 802IB, allegedly forced barangay officials and village to serve as guides for their military operations. The same unit was also responsible for the torture and illegal arrest and detention of three residents of Barangay Guimbanga, Calbiga, Samar.