November 09, 2006

The return of fascist rule

Anyone who has yearned for and enjoyed the inner peace and tranquility brought about by a period of complete silence and focused meditation knows the shock of sudden and unexpected intrusion of any form, more so the jarring violence of physical aggression imposed with arrogance and abuse of authority. Therefore the forcible entry and intrusive search into the convent of the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd (CGS) in the late evening of All Saints Day is a clear travesty.

Not only did the police raiding team headed by a certain Colonel Wilfredo Reyes, violate the law by failing to present a valid search warrant, they completely disregarded the internationally recognized principle of sanctuary accorded to churches, mosques and similar religious venues. (The same raiding team subsequently attempted to enter the convent of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and also conducted a search at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Pastoral Center, all located within the vicinity of Baan, Butuan City.)

The lame excuse that the police did not know what “contemplative” means and that it was a case of “mistaken identity” appears to be a clumsy attempt to escape blame for official wrongdoing; if true, it also exposes police incompetence of the highest order.

Why, in the wake of this latest outrage, is there complete silence, amounting to tacit approval, from the Arroyo government, starting with the immediate superiors of the police unit that conducted the raid, all the way up to the police top brass, the Department of Interior and Local Government and Malacañang itself?

Such a response from the authorities is no longer surprising. Until the hue and cry from the local and international human rights community, the Arroyo regime had resorted to looking the other way and pretending that no violations of human rights were taking place. It repeatedly said that the political killings were merely the result of the overactive imagination of human rights organizations such as Karapatan, whose motives are, in the first place, suspect, since these are considered by the Arroyo government to be “front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army.

When the official denials and washing of hands became patently unacceptable, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, created a police task force and then a so-called “independent” commission to investigate the rash of political killings. If only to give these bodies an iota of credibility, one would have expected that they make some sort of statement condemning the CGS raid as well as the most recent murder of the chairperson of the Eastern Samar chapter of Karapatan, who was gunned down using the old modus operandi of death squads cited by Amnesty International. Except for the condemnation by Butuan diocese Bishop Juan de Pueblos, himself incidentally a member of the Melo Commission, we have not heard a squeak from the much-vaunted but inutile investigative body.

The uniformly complete silence of superiors all the way up to Malacañang confirms that all these illegal actions by state authorities are not isolated incidents but are done in accordance with state policy. More ominously, these recent incidents show the Arroyo regime is bent on intensifying its violent and indiscriminate persecution not only of its political opponents but also those who advocate human rights, justice and peace.

Clearly, Malacañang no less, should be held accountable not only because it continues to fail to put a stop to these gross and wanton human rights violations, but because it has initiated all these in the first place through its militarist policy of “total war against the Left” and because it continues to encourage and reward the perpetrators in spite of widespread condemnation and its own posturing and protestations of innocence.

To the victims of the state’s human rights violations and their supporters, the Arroyo regime is not just an accomplice or compliant collaborator, it is the mastermind of all these crimes.

These recent events leave no doubt as to the real danger, if not the intent, behind the Anti-terrorism Bill (ATB) that Mrs. Arroyo wants approved by the Senate before the ASEAN ministerial meeting that the Philippines is hosting in December. Not content with getting away with murder and other grievous offenses, Malacañang wants the state apparatus to have an even greater leeway to invade privacy, arrest and detain indefinitely on the basis of the flimsiest (and in practice, fabricated) accusations, proscribe legitimate protest actions such as industrial strikes and political rallies and illegalize legitimate organizations critical of government, and a whole slew of fascist measures that would allow it to rule with an iron hand without having to declare martial law.

In fact the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), “a leading international non-governmental organization consisting of jurists who represent all the regions and legal systems in the world, working to uphold the rule of law and the legal protection of human rights,” has urged the Philippine Senate not to adopt the ATB without “significant amendments to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.”

The ICJ specifically cited “the proposed reintroduction of the death penalty as punishment for the crime of terrorism, excessive periods of detention without judicial authorization, and a number of other far-reaching law enforcement powers accorded to the military.” The ICJ noted that history gives ample evidence that “using the military in policing increases the risks of human rights abuses as they are not trained as investigators, law enforcers, prison officials or experts examining bank records.”

The ICJ was further concerned about the powers and accountability of a new Anti-Terrorism Council to be created by the ATB. To wit, “The Council will have far-reaching and at times open-ended powers, including the establishment of extensive data-bases, a special counter-terrorism force and other powers without specifying their scope, modalities and democratic control.”

The Anti-terrorism Bill promises to be the legal firmament for the return of fascist dictatorship while maintaining the grand pretense of “democratic” rule. Without a doubt, it also will create a firestorm of protest and resistance that will signal the end of another oppressive and reviled ruler the same way the unlamented dictator Marcos was toppled by an aroused Filipino people.###

*Published in Business World
10-11 November 2006


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