Reign of Impunity

No honest-to-goodness investigation was ever conducted by the authorities. Ka Marcing’s family decided to move away quietly and not pursue justice for their father. To this day, the police have no suspects and no charges have been filed: the killers have gotten away again scot free.

According to Mr. Alston, “The Witness Protection Program is impressive on paper. In practice, however, it is deeply flawed and would seem only to be truly effective in a very limited number of cases. The result, as one expert suggested to me, is that 8 out of 10 strong cases, or 80 percent fail to move from the initial investigation to the actual prosecution stage.”

Thus the recent announcement by the Supreme Court that it will set up special courts to try cases of extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists, loudly applauded by Malacañang, appears to have little relevance to bringing an end to the reign of impunity in this country.

The military, the police, the justice department, the Melo Commission and Mrs. Arroyo herself all rue the alleged “lack of witnesses” as the main if not the only reason investigations into the killings do not prosper. They turn a blind eye to the well-founded distrust of government by the victims’ families who suspect the assassins to be men in uniform, the masterminds to be people in authority and the over-arching policy frame to be reflected in Oplan Bantay Laya, the government’s flawed counter-insurgency program.

They gloss over the proven danger for anyone who dare testify, especially against agents of the state, not to mention the inaccessibility, if not absence of, government resources to support witnesses and their families.

They keep quiet about the fact that no human rights violator has been punished in this country despite the fall of the Marcos dictatorship and the supposed restoration of democratic processes and the rule of law.

Most of all, they do not acknowledge that the highest accolades and quick promotions rendered, together with the stubborn refusal to investigate, the likes of Gen. Jovito Palparan — notorious for bringing about a reign of terror and a long list of extrajudicial killings and involuntary disappearances while dutifully implementing the government’s counter-insurgency program – is the true measure of the Arroyo regime’s willingness to stop the killings.

Mrs. Arroyo can end the killings today, if she wanted to. Business World/Posted by Bulatlat

*Published in Business World
16-17 March 2007(

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