By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
At this point it should be obvious that what the Arroyo government is engaged in is another massive cover-up, this time, of official sanction for extrajudicial killings of progressives, activists and their supporters.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) position on the spate of killings of members and officials of progressive party lists and militant organizations on the Left of the political spectrum is the most sane official pronouncement we have heard so far on the matter.
To wit, Chairman Purificacion Quisumbing is saying that at the minimum, government should be held responsible for not putting a stop to this epidemic of extrajudicial killings and thereby allowing a climate of impunity to reign.
Since armed agents of the state are prime suspects, the Arroyo government is all the more duty-bound to act swiftly, conduct a thorough, no-nonsense, credible investigation that should produce results in terms of arrests and the successful prosecution of the guilty, both triggermen and masterminds.
What would Malacañang, the chambers of commerce, the socio-civic clubs and even the Catholic Church hierarchy say, if a health epidemic that kills scores, if not hundreds of people, over a short period of time, were allowed by the Department of Health (DoH) to wreak havoc without it lifting a finger? Why, that would trigger both an official and public outcry.
When the Filipino-Chinese community raises the alarm about kidnappings of its members, more so if they march in the streets the way they did when a promising, young woman executive died at the hands of kidnappers several years back, the authorities scramble to act. Malacañang issues a flurry of strongly-worded directives for law enforcement agencies to produce results within 48 hours or face the ire of no less than the President.
The same thing with high profile cases involving media personalities like the popular actress Nida Blanca. Even if the cases should drag in court, at the very least cases are built up through persistent police investigative work and the dogged pursuit of justice by state prosecutors and aggrieved parties themselves.
Curiously, but not unexpectedly, what has been happening with regard to the alleged political killings is the exact opposite.
First are the official denials that such a spike in the number of cases is true or indicates anything unusual. As far as Malacañang, the police/military generals and hard-core anti-communist commentators in the
mass media are concerned there is no pattern to the killings, whether it be the background and circumstances of the victims, the profile and motives of the suspected perpetrators or the modus operandi of the killers.
The statements of the victims’ relatives, friends and co-workers that their chief suspects are “death squads” of the government, either members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) or their assets are dismissed as biased and unreliable. There is unison in the knee-jerk response of the police and the military that the accusing fingers pointed in their direction are part and parcel of “communist propaganda” and have no merit whatsoever.
Government officials rue the lack of witnesses who can give leads to solving the murder cases and thereafter profess helplessness. Physical evidence is not painstakingly gathered, possible suspects are not tracked down, the crimes are quickly archived if not abandoned because according to investigators, “there are no witnesses.”
In fact witnesses in this country do not come forward because they fear for their lives, having very little trust and confidence in the government’s will, capacity and track record in protecting them and their families. How much more when suspicion is high that the assailants and their bosses are in the very government agencies charged with investigating such crimes.
A case in point are the witnesses in the abduction and murder of the human rights leader of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) in Southern Tagalog, Eden Marcellana, together with peasant leader, Ka Eddie Gumanoy in 2003. In fact they themselves were abducted when their fact-finding mission to Mindoro Oriental was waylaid by armed men on a national highway. They survived the ordeal and courageously stood as witnesses, even identifying the right-hand man of then Col. Jovito Palparan, a master sergeant, as one of the kidnappers but nothing happened. The case is still languishing in the (In)Justice Department. Worse, the witnesses suffer all sorts of harassment and must rely on their own meager resources to protect themselves.