Apart from cheating, lying and stealing, the widespread killings of 411 church people, lawyers, human rights advocates, political activists, workers and peasants all over the country are also one of the grounds for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s impeachment.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Political killings in the country have become so widespread that the impeachment prosecution team could not help but include these as one of the amendments to the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano at the Secretary General’s Office of the House of Representatives.
Human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, a member of the impeachment prosecution team, said the killings of 411 individuals from the religious sector, legal profession, human rights work, labor and peasant sectors have been considered grounds for the president’s impeachment. Colmenares said these are culpable violations of the Constitution under the provisions of the Bill of Rights.
In the last four years of the Macapagal- Arroyo presidency, Colmenares said there has been a pattern of human rights abuses that he described as “widespread and systematic.”
According to its report which covered Jan. 21, 2001 to June 30, 2005, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) has documented 4,207 cases of human rights violations affecting 232,795 individuals or 24,299 families in 237 communities. These included 102 victims of frustrated murders and 130 victims of involuntary disappearances.
The 411 documented summary executions included 51 leaders and members of the party-list group Bayan Muna (people first), 20 human rights workers, and four lawyers and two judges in 2004 and 2005. There were also hundreds of peasants and workers killed including the seven striking workers and supporters of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac (120 kms from Manila) who died during a violent dispersal at the picket line November last year.
Military officers and members as well as members of paramilitary groups have been accused as the perpetrators of the killings. Among them is Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. who was head of the 204th Infantry Brigade in Mindoro Oriental from 2001 to 2003. It was during this time that the twin murders of human rights worker Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy took place. Cases were filed against the military but they have not been solved until today.
The military officer’s human rights record has been questioned by local and international human rights groups but instead of being punished, Palparan was sent to head the Philippine humanitarian team to Iraq in 2004. After his stint there, he was promoted to major general by President Macapagal-Arroyo and is currently the military commander of the 8th Infantry Division in Eastern Visayas. The latter has become a virtual killing field since he assumed his post last February, it was learned.
In the draft amended impeachment complaint, it is alleged that Macapagal-Arroyo “abetted” these heinous crimes, making her responsible for such crimes as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Terror vs Muslims
On the other hand, former Commissioner on Human Rights Nasser Marohomsalic said that the primary reason why the Muslim community is calling for the President to step down from office is because she has no respect for Islam.
Proof of this, the Muslim lawyer said, is the violence against Muslims in Mindanao, mostly in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao and Basilan. These are also the areas where massive election fraud has been allegedly committed by Macapagal-Arroyo as exposed in the controversial wiretapped conversation between her and election official Virgilio Garcillano.
Marohomsalic cited as examples the bombing of a Muslim village on the day of the feast of sacrifice in 2003, the indiscriminate arrest of Muslims being tagged as members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the brutal treatment of Muslim inmates last March 15 in what is popularly known as the Bicutan Siege. In all of these violent attacks, most of the victims who died or have disappeared were innocent civilians, he added.
In fact, Marohomsalic said, he has documented three cases in which inmates have been taken out of municipal jails and have been brought to Manila to be presented as terrorists. “Bakit, paramihan ba? (Why, is this a numbers game?)” he asked.
‘These attacks are reflective of the military mindset of some of our leaders,” he said.
Fatima Remedios Balbin, former National Amnesty Commissioner, said there are several heinous offenses that Macapagal-Arroyo is responsible for, and killings are one of them. As a balik-Islam (Muslim convert), she believes there is an indiscriminate action of government against their sector.
Colmenares described the series of killings that took place during the four-year term of Macapagal- Arroyo as a very strong case politically. “People will always be antagonized by a state that has committed massive killings of its own people,” he said.
It is the first time in the country’s history that murder is one of the grounds for a president’s impeachment.
This is a historic feat, Colemenares said, because the issue on killings is “closest to the heart of the people.” According to him, murder is a direct attack on a person’s being. Bulatlat