Persons Without Human Rights Background Head Human Rights Bodies in the Arroyo Government: A Media Plan to Muddle Issues and Exonerate AFP

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Pro-Arroyo supporters handling human rights issues

CODAL is seriously concerned that people without any track record for human rights advocacy, such as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Justice Melo and Rep. Bienvinido Abante, are heading human rights bodies tasked with investigating human rights violations of Arroyo government.

Senate should withdraw votes for Sen. Enrile

CODAL condemns the shameless lack of remorse and sensitivity of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile for his role as the implementor of martial law. He misses the point when he justified his role by using the ‘constitutionality’ of martial law, since the issue is not merely whether Pres. Ferdinand Marcos had the power to declare martial law but whether he had the power to close Congress, to conduct political killings, illegally arrest and detain the opposition and enrich his family through graft and corruption. Surely, many of the acts Hitler may have constitutional basis in Germany, but they were crimes against humanity under international law just the same.

CODAL is concerned that an unrepentant martial law executor, without any background or sympathy to human rights, is currently the head of the Senate Human Rights Committee. It is surprising and unacceptable why Sen. Enrile got the vote of the Senate majority to chair a Committee which will deal with issues on political killings, compensation of martial law victims and other human rights concerns.

Due to Sen. Enrile’s lack of understanding of human rights and lack of remorse for his role during martial law, CODAL calls on members of the Senate to withdraw their votes for Sen. Enrile, oust him from his current position and vote for a senator with knowledge of human rights to chair the Senate Committee on Human Rights.

Muddling the issue

CODAL finds abhorrent the attempt of Pres. Arroyo’s administration at pointing to the New People’s Army as responsible for the murder of more than 700 people, considering that the relatives of the victims point to the military as perpetrators while not one of these relatives ever mentioned the NPA as their suspects.

Experienced lawyers know that relatives of the victims will not point to the much feared military if they suspect the NPA. CODAL confidently asserts that Gen. Hermogenes Esperon does not really have any evidence, admissible in court, to prove his claims before the Melo Commission except self serving ‘captured documents’ that no one can verify or testimonies of witnesses whose credibility is not even closely comparable to those of the victim-survivors or their relatives. Gen. Esperon was merely playing a media counter offensive to diffuse criticism from Pres. Arroyo and the AFP.

MELO Commission’s lack of human rights sensitivities

CODAL is seriously concerned that the Melo Commission is contributing to the military’s media counter offensive when it allowed the AFP to explain why they are not guilty of the political killings rather than asking the victims what actually happened. Any serious, competent and genuine fact finding body or court for that matter must first establish the facts of the incident before interviewing the suspects. The prosecutor must first lay the basis of the case before the accused or the respondent is allowed to present his or her defense. This major mistake of the Melo Commission is a serious blow to its already tattered credibility, from which the Commission may not be able to recover. From the conduct and composition of the Melo Commission, it is no longer surprising to expect that it will come out with a decision declaring that there is no evidence proving government involvement in the killings, using the killing of journalists as a basis. It may sacrifice an individual soldier or two as perpetrators but will point to the NPAs and criminal syndicates as the main perpetrators of the killings.

The sinister inclusion of the Committee on Defense and the Public Order Committee headed by former military officers in the House of Representatives’ investigation of the political killings is one more proof of the malicious effort by government to derail the ongoing investigation and discourage witnesses from testifying. Rep. Abante, who chairs the human rights committee, shows his lack of human rights advocacy and sensitivity by inviting former military officers to join in his committee’s investigation.

Pattern of Deception

All these point to the fact that Pres. Arroyo and the military hopes to distract international concern by muddling the issue using supposed killings of the NPAs as a diversion. Such an argument however, is not only irrelevant to the issue of political killings but is an admission on the part of the military of their involvement in the current killings using the analogous principle of ‘negative pregnant’ under the rules of court. It is negative pregnant because instead of proving their innocence of the recent killings, the military argues that the NPAs committed similar killings more than 16 years ago. The rules of evidence require specific denial of a charge and the presentation of evidence to prove such denial rather than using generalities and pointing to the perpetrators of another incident not related to the issue at hand.

CODAL expresses its abhorrence over the contribution of the Senate, the Melo Commission and the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee in this blatant cover up. CODAL asks the victims and the human rights groups to expose this grand design of the AFP and the Arroyo government, so that the search for truth and the real perpetrators of the political killings will not be derailed. CODAL urges human rights groups and concerned governments worldwide to insist that the Melo Commission and congressional human rights committees focus their investigation on the killing of the 752 victims so that the issue of current political killings will be substantially resolved and the death squads stopped from committing more assassinations and extra judicial killings.

September 23, 2006

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