BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
To date, there have been 601 cases of political killings. Political killings or assassinations may be the appropriate term to describe it. But the way these killings were carried out, the use of authority and superior force over an unarmed and unknowing civilian, is worse than murder. And murder is a criminal act abhorred by all with a penalty more than execution, eternal damnation. Political killings, therefore, are not only violations of our rights, it is a violation of our dignity as humans.
Barely three days after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo broke her deafening silence on the killings of political activists, administration officials have already been echoing the line of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force Usig formed May 13 to investigate the killings, Deputy Director General Avelino Razon Jr., said that of the 25 of the killings were committed by soldiers and paramilitary groups while 13 may have been the result of a purge within the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Razon came out with a subsequent statement saying that people should not blame President Arroyo for the killings. The PNP, which in other cases, especially of high profile crimes, refuses to reveal the identity of suspects so as not to preempt the investigation are suddenly quick in coming out with a conclusion. The haste by which these conclusions were drawn up raises doubts on the seriousness of these investigations.
As of May 16, there were already 601political killings since the Arroyo administration took over in 2001. Of these, 221 were confirmed to be members of people’s organizations, 93 from Bayan Muna (People First).
The “purge” theory has been the standard response of the AFP whenever they are suspected of a killing or a forcible abduction and disappearance. It is now being raised by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
But Karapatan or the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in a press statement May 16 cited two cases where soldiers or policemen were identified. In the case of survivors Emmylou Buñi and husband Brylle Cruz, KARAPATAN-Central Visayas staff and Bayan Muna organizer, respectively, the couple was able to identify the gunman, Ricky Lao and two more intelligence agents of the 78th IB under the command of Lt. Col. Jessie Alvarez as the ones who fired at them last November 24, 2005. Another survivor, Gerardo Cristobal, a union leader, was able to defend himself and remove the ski mask covering his attacker. The attacker turned out to be SPO1 Romeo Lara. And in all of the cases, the victims were accused of being communists or NPA guerrillas before being killed.
The “purge” theory is like a badly written script oft repeated in the hope that people will believe in it. While the CPP admitted to errors in conducting anti-infiltration campaigns in the past, it is difficult to imagine how an underground organization could form so many teams of armed motorcycle-riding men spread all over the country to kill its own members. If that is the case then the AFP need not conduct massive military operations and just wait for the CPP and the NPA to extinguish itself.
To further stress the obvious, a lot of these killings were done in broad daylight often near military detachments. Sounds of gunshots are heard from great distances especially in wide open spaces in rural areas. Second, there are a lot of AFP and PNP checkpoints especially in areas the government deem as critical. These hit squads must have mastered the art of disappearing into thin air after a killing.
When the Batasan 5 were about to leave the House of Representatives, where they took refuge under the protective custody of the Lower House, last May 8 Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales lifted the arrest order and was quoted as saying that the Arroyo administration did not want to be part of a script that would portray the embattled legislators as “heroes.” But the way things are going, it seems that it is the Arroyo administration that is following a script.
First, the administration would put the blame of the political killings on the CPP. This would not only enable the Arroyo government to evade its responsibility over the killings. It is also a way of vilifying the CPP as a ruthless and violent organization that is capable of doing anything to pursue its rebellion.