Let us zero in specifically on the question of violations of civil and political rights under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch. Why is it that we know that this government is not to be believed when it says it will stop political killings?
BY CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
A week after Mrs. Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo’s State-of-the-Nation (SONA) wherein she condemned political killings, urged witnesses to come forward and promised to stop extrajudicial executions, six more people, five of them identified with the Leftist national democratic movement, and one, a photojournalist and relative of a reporter murdered last May, lay dead, felled once more by assassins’ bullets.
Only the three latest killings merited front page stories. Perhaps it was because they all happened in just one day and the victims were not so dirt-poor and faceless — a 21-year-old League of Filipino Students (LFS) leader in Bicol, the Bayan Muna Coordinator for Kalinga who was the wife of a prominent physician and civic leader in Tabuk, and a media practitioner in Metro Manila.
Mrs. Arroyo’s response was significant in that for the first time she gave the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Justice Department a deadline, 10 weeks, within which to solve some of the killings. The concerned officials dutifully said they would try to comply with the directive of Mrs. Arroyo.
Nonetheless, why is Mrs. Arroyo’s latest pronouncement, like her SONA three-liner and her creation of the PNP Task Force Usig several months ago, met with even more skepticism?
Let’s set aside the general problem of the Arroyo administration’s credibility generated by its unsatisfactory, to say the least, handling of serious charges of electoral fraud, corrupt government deals and the tyrannical abuse of executive powers. Let us not even venture into recalling the many times she has made promises with such dramatic flourish only to renege on them so blatantly later on.
Let us zero in specifically on the question of violations of civil and political rights under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch. Why is it that we know that this government is not to be believed when it says it will stop political
First, the killings don’t stop. The facts speak for themselves.
Second, there is no credible, much less speedy, investigation of the killings, the involuntary disappearances and the claims of torture while in the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or PNP. The reasons the authorities provide are questionable and self-serving. If we are to believe the excuses they routinely dish out, the government’s ludicrous inutility in the face of this patent breakdown of law and order is further exposed.
Government says there are no witnesses. Certainly, few witnesses will dare testify even at the investigation stage because they inevitably become the next target of harassment if not fall victim to being killed
themselves. More to the point, government investigators are suspect because of the common perception that the police, military or their assets are involved as part of national security policy and the current
counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, not to mention their unenviable track record as human rights violators.
But are the only means available to government investigators the reliance on witnesses to the actual killing? What about the physical and circumstantial evidence? What about information from kin, co-workers and
associates about probable motive and possible suspects? When state forces are implicated, why do the investigations stop dead in their tracks?