June 28, 2007

Web of lies

De facto President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s refusal to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances and her administration’s continuing inaction despite increasing disclosures as well as hard evidence that military/police personnel are the perpetrators show that Mrs. Arroyo tolerates, if not approves, of the extrajudicial killings despite her belated statements condemning these.

The fact is, the recommendations of Amnesty International, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and even the Malacanang-created Melo Commission all pointing to state agents as perpetrators have not been substantially acted upon.

Human Rights Watch in its 28 June 2007 report on the Philippines said: “President Arroyo announced a wealth of new measures in the wake of the Melo Commission’s conclusions and recommendations, but the president’s initial efforts to keep the Commission report secret raises serious concerns about the political will to enforce these measures. In the end, it is actions that will speak louder than words, and the only real indication of the government’s commitment to end these killings will be when the perpetrators are finally held to account in a court of law.”

Recently, Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Senate Minority Leader Francis Pangilinan warned of dire consequences if the extrajudicial killings and abductions are not stopped. They condemned these human rights violations as abominable and constitute nothing less than the complete breakdown of the rule of law.

Chief Justice Puno said, "The extrajudicial taking of life is the ultimate violation of human rights. It cannot be allowed anywhere, and it has to be resisted everywhere.” He pointed out that the unsolved murders had given “a black eye to the country -- and the backlash is especially on the executive department.”

Mr. Pangilinan for his part called on Mrs. Arroyo, as the head of the country’s security forces, to get to the bottom of the murders of activists and their supporters or be ultimately held accountable just like former Argentina President Isabelita Peron, who is now under house arrest in Spain for her alleged involvement in the formation of death squads in Argentina during her presidency that began in 1976.

Malacanang’s unfazed response to newspaper reports that three military generals have implicated the government in the summary executions is once more that of denial. AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon attempts to skirt the issue by hiding behind the sheer legal technicality that government cannot respond to what it considers unsubstantiated charges from unidentified sources.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Mr. Esperon’s definition of command responsibility as “applicable only to military officers who are two ranks higher than their subordinates who committed the crime” is another poor attempt to clear the Commander-in-chief and the AFP high command of any responsibility.

Is the Arroyo government saying that the Commander-in-chief has no way of finding out who the three generals are or who else was in that alleged command conference where extrajudicial killings were said to have been given an official stamp of approval? Do Mrs. Arroyo’s henchmen want us to believe that she is helpless in digging deeper into the damaging allegations?

Mrs. Arroyo appears to be increasingly entangled in her own official web of lies. The more she denies knowing of military and police atrocities, the more she is forced to admit her own inability to rule. If the three generals’ expose is true and Mrs. Arroyo is not aware it happened, then the Commander-in-chief is not in command. If true and Mrs. Arroyo has full knowledge, then she is directly responsible for the extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights violations.

Outrage, long pent up and mounting, is bound to explode over the killings, unabated by universal condemnation and earnest appeals.

In the short-term, it can find expression in public support for the trailblazing efforts of the Puno Supreme Court to use the judiciary’s “expanded powers” under the 1987 Constitution as a guardian of civil liberties and human rights. This would include “new rules” to address the almost insurmountable obstacles that stand in the way of the investigation or prosecution of state-engineered crimes committed in the name of fighting insurgency and “terrorism”.

That outrage may also bring about the popular will and force that could oust the fascist criminals from power and put a stop to the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.###


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