Less than two days after it was leaked to the media that Akbayan Chairperson Emeritus and former Congressional Representative Loretta Ann Rosales is President Aquino’s choice to head the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), National Democratic Front-Affiliated organizations have waged a campaign to prevent her from sitting.
On July 8th, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Karapatan, two Communist Party of the Philippines – National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) Affiliated groups released statements protesting Rosales’ appointment to the CHR, claiming that she is unfairly biased against “progressive groups,” unfairly biased towards the military and had a dismal record as Chair of the Committee on Human Rights in the House of Representatives. The NDF-aligned groups claim that Rosales will not be a credible defender of human rights.
These accusations are ridiculous. Etta herself is a victim of human rights abuse, having been detained under martial law together with Senator Jose Diokno, human rights laywer Haydee Yorac and columnist Amando Doronilla. While in military detention she underwent electric shock, sexual abuse short of rape, the Russian roulette routine and the water cure. Hot candle wax was also poured on her skin. Since then, Etta has been a staunch champion of Human Rights. As president of Claimaints 1081, she has faithfully sought to acquire compensation for victims of human rights abuses under the Marcos dictatorship, having pushed for the Victim Compensation Bill throughout her three terms in Congress.
So why are the CPP-NDF- affiliated groups so opposed to Etta’s appointment? Ideology. The CPP-aligned groups believe in human rights, but not its universality. Etta’s rift with the CPP began during the internal purges of the early 1990s when she refused to take part in the internal executions. In Etta’s words, “They even wanted me to be part of the inner sanctum that would decide who’d be executed next, but I refused. Ayoko!” Years after leaving the Communist Party, Etta became the first representative of Akbayan! Citizens’ Action Party in Congress where among her legislative advocacies was making illegal Permits to Campaign and Permits to Win. Her repeated advocacy for compensation for Marcos victims was blocked in the House by Bayan Muna and Gabriela representatives because they wanted members of SELDA, an organization of Marcos detainees and their families, to be included in the board. Etta opposed this saying it “would constitute a conflict of interest.” Etta insists that fair and equal compensation must be provided to all victims. In 2005, the CPP named Etta a “counterrevolutionary” and was placed her on the NPA’s hitlist.
Etta has also caught the ire of the CPP-NPA by working together with the Armed Forces towards peace. Unlike the CPP, that completely rejects and demonizes the AFP and PNP, Etta believes in working together with state security forces in nation-building. In 2009, Etta lauded the Armed forces of the Philippines for its active involvement in Building Bridges for Peace, a project of the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, particularly the Civil Relations Service, AFP and the Office for Civil Military Operations (OJ7), and provincial commanders of Quezon and Misamis Oriental to protect the democratic processes of land installation for the farmers and indigenous peoples to lands that should belong to them.
I hope you will join me in supporting the appointment of Loretta Ann Rosales as Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. Mabuhay kayo at Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!