The Faces of Impunity

Recent moves by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration show its regard for the people’s sovereign will and human rights: it violates these with impunity. And things may get worse with the impending implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law euphemistically called the Human Security Act. That is, if the Filipino people allow it do so.

Vol. 7, No. 22, July 8-14, 2007

Lintang Bedol, the controversial Maguindanao Commission on Elections (COMELEC) official, is free again.

After “supervising” the fraud-ridden elections in the province, suspiciously collecting the original copies of the municipal certificates of canvass (CoCs) and conveniently “losing” them to “thieves,” defying orders from COMELEC to appear before the National Board of Canvassers and taunting them to file a case against him, boasting to media about his 20 armalite rifles and other assorted guns, Bedol was set free after entering a plea of not guilty to contempt charges. This after the COMELEC declared the Maguindanao CoCs as valid, thereby legitimizing the fraudulent elections in the province which was exposed by no less than a Department of Education District Supervisor Musa Dimasidsing who was killed and three teachers who are now missing.

The COMELEC did not merely give a kid-glove treatment to Lintang Bedol, it tolerated him. It did not censure Bedol not because it is soft. The COMELEC is actually a party to what Bedol did: rape the country’s electoral process with impunity.

Related to the issue of impunity, controversial National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales who, together with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, is being accused by militant organizations of masterminding the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances was appointed as officer-in-charge of Department of National Defense. Gonzales claims that the Left is winning the “propaganda war” in pinning the blame for the extrajudicial executions to the government and the AFP. He advised the military to just do their jobs “quietly” (read: stealthily).

Only the Macapagal-Arroyo administration believes its own official line that the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances is the result of an “internal purge” within the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). This absurd claim was belied by various international ­fact-finding missions and independent foreign observers including Amnesty International, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston and the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The AFP’s culpability was also implied by a technical mission of the European Union when it recommended human rights awareness seminars for soldiers and police officers. The recent revelation of an intelligence officer that the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) was involved in the forcible abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos in a mall in Quezon City confirmed the suspicions of his family and the human rights community.

Putting Norberto Gonzales at the helm of the Department of National Defense, albeit temporarily, demonstrates the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s regard for the most basic of human rights, the right to life and humane treatment, and its insincerity in addressing the issue of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The culture of impunity thus continues.

And now, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is back to his normal self of issuing controversial statements by warning media that, with the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law euphemistically called the Human Security Act, their communications will be wiretapped if the Department of Justice (DOJ) determines that they are suspected of being terrorists. The DoJ under his watch was recently castigated by the Supreme Court for its hasty and politically-motivated filing of rebellion charges against party list representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño, and Joel Virador of Bayan Muna (People First), Crispin Beltran and Rafael Mariano of AnakPawis (Toiling Masses) and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party. It could do even more damage with the additional powers it would have with the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Gonzalez continued stay as justice secretary shows the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s idea of freedom of the press and expression, and the right to due process and against arbitrary arrest and detention. These rights are in danger of being grossly violated and trampled upon with the Anti-Terrorism Law’s impending implementation.

The Macapagal-Arroyo administration will continue to violate the people’s sovereign will and human rights with impunity in its desperate effort to cling to power. The human rights situation will even become worse with the implementation of the recently-passed Anti-Terrorism Law as this will provide the administration with the legal basis for further attacking the people’s democratic rights. No amount of persuasion will prevent it from doing so, for it listens not to the power of reasoning but to the power of political action. (

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