Ipinaskil ni: diwa81 | Disyembre 9, 2009

On Human Rigths Conditions in the Philippines

Nothing describes better the human rights condition in the Philippines than the recent events in Maguindanao. In a most shocking incident some 57 people, including women and members of the media, were brutally butchered on a lonely hill in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Accused of this heinous crime are, coincidentally, the Ampatuans.
Being forewarned that something will happen to Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu should he run against the Ampatuans, the former decided to let her wife file his certificate of candidacy for him, thinking that no harm would be done to the group. The reporters of different media outfits, seeing the event as a big story, very big indeed, since no one had ever dared to challenge the political clan of Ampatuans until now, that more than 30 went with the group of Mangudadatu.
It is not unknown in these parts of the Philippines that rido or clan wars are common events especially during election season. But the traditional rido usually spared women and children from armed attacks. No one had ever imagined that all that would be thrown down the drain by the Ampatuans.
The Ampatuans were feared in Maguindanao, but the Mangudadatus did not think that the Ampatuans would be that brazen. They were proven wrong. And that mistake claimed the lives of his wife and other relatives, and scores more who were with the group to file the candidacy, even a group of unsuspecting employees of another town in Maguindanao that only caught up with the convoy while on their way to Cotabato. On the morning of 23 November, a dug up hole was already waiting for the convoy to serve as their mass graveyard. Some 100 armed men, presumed to be private army of the Ampatuan, blocked the convoy. And the bloodbath began.
The news shocked the world. The gravity of the crime attracted the attention of everyone to this remote province that the world has not even heard of hitherto.
Culture of Impunity
But what’s more shocking is that this has been going on in the whole Philippines for almost a decade now under the Arroyo regime. With the culture of impunity that has so shrouded the eyes of justice to not see the more than a thousand cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and other forms of political harrasment, who was there to stop the perpetrator of the infamous “Maguindanao Massacre?” If a lowly soldier or gunman hired by the state forces can freely murder activists in broad daylight as they will, what more for a big political clan that is a known ally of the Arroyo administration?
And all these people are guilty of is standing up against corruption and challanging the existing system to enforce changes that are much needed by the Filipino people. Every case of huge malversation of government funds and other corrupt practices of the regime, from the “fertilizer fund scam” upto the aborted but dubious “NBN-ZTE deal,” has been pigeonholed. Those who persisted on pursuing these cases had paid dearly, some even with their own lives.
Pattern of Death
With the death toll now reaching almost a thousand, a clear pattern have emerged. The victim is usually first subjected to black propaganda by the state forces. Openly, he/she is condemned as being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, usually through state run radio stations. Then the nightmare begins. The victim is either summarily executed, abducted or charged with trumped-up cases. The execution is usually done in a manner that has now become a household phrase, “riding in tandem.”
State of Denial
Numerous evidences have emerged and some witnesses came out despite the grave danger in their own lives. And all fingers are pointing to the state forces; either they are directly involved or incidents suggests that they did not fulfill their duties or even permitted these to happen. There were killings just meters away from military detatchments. The vehicle used, for example, to abduct Jonas Burgos, son of journalist icon Joe Burgos, was traced back to a vehicle that was confiscated by the military.
These are all the facts that various governments and organizations, including the United Nations through the special report of UN Rapporteur Phillip Alston, took into consideration. And they all came into the same conclusion: the state forces and the Arroyo Administration are liable due to “command and responsibility” for all these cases; that the regime has permitted a “culture of impunity” that emboldened the perpetrators; and that the state continues to be in a state of denial for all these incidents. To all these, the regime flatly denies everything to be true!
Instead, they continue to conjure such laughable stories that the killings were done by the CPP/NPA. Whenever hard pressed on the issue, they parry it by pointing the blame on others.
For nine years now, not a single case of political killings and repression had been solved. And the prospects of the victims and their families receiving justice are ever more bleaker, even after 2010 when the term of Arroyo ends (if this happens) as the de-facto president has already filed her certificate of candidacy to run for Congress. The plan is to win a seat in Congress and afford herself with continued immunity from criminal cases and even push through in changing the Constitution and become prime minister.
Recent events following the Maguindanao Massacre indicates that justice will still be no where to be found. The imposition of Martial Law in some parts of Maguindanao does not contribute to the prosecution of the multiple counts of murder; on the contrary, it has even cast a dark shadow over the ongoing investigation. With the discovery of tons of assorted weapons and ammunition, and even armored personnel vehicles, of the Ampatuans, the Department of National Defense and the AFP was put on a bad light because of accusations that they were the ones that supplied those armaments to the Ampatuans. But now with the Martial Law, it seems that moves to investigate this will not prosper anymore. Furthermore, declaring the Ampatuans as a rebel group and their case as rebellion, the government has virtually acquitted them. Since the case is clearly a criminal one, filing rebellion charges would make the case much weaker. Once acquitted of rebellion charges, the gruesome murder of 57 people would also be dismissed.
It’s funny that, against the other enemies of the state, the CPP/NPA and MILF for example, the prosecution panel tries as much as possible to avoid the charges from elevating into rebellion cases. But here, it is no less than the acting Secretary of Justice herself that has conjured the rebellion charges. They themselves have provided the Ampatuans a very convenient escape for the grave crime they have committed. Even if proven guilty fo rebellion charges, the Ampatuans could just easily apply for amnesty, and all their crimes would be automatically erased af if nothing happened.
The massacre of 57 people is not an act of rebellion; it is the action of the Arroyo government that is rebellious!
The “Maguindanao Massacre” should serve as a wake up call for everyone. It has clearly demonstrated the terror that the people live in under the rule of such powerful political dynasties and warlords; and that there will be no justice for all the victims if the rule of these warlords, especially the Arroyo clique, does not end. And we, the people, are the ones to end it.


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