Clearly the Arroyo bloc has been unwilling to try to end the abuses. There are two main reasons for this. First, she fears a coup. A leader of a recent attempt was placed in detention, but still got 11.5 million votes in the May Senate election. Second, her disastrous neo-liberal policies are deeply unpopular.
BY GIL BOEHRINGER*
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
First published in Socialist Worker
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 28, August 19-25, 2007
Filipino leader Gloria Arroyo will join 20 other world leaders, including John Howard and George Bush, at next month’s APEC summit in Sydney. But, argues Gill Boehringer, she is feeling the heat at home because of her government’s crackdown on democracy activists a crackdown carried out in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’.
In a unique political initiative, the Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice, Reynato S. Puno, hosted 250 people at a “slays summit” in Manila, July 16-17.
It was an attempt to deal with the continuing terror which has brought 1100 extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances (EJKED) during the Arroyo presidency.
Few of the incidents have been investigated and no one convicted.
The major purpose was to discuss ways to use the Court’s Constitutional powers to create new rules for lower courts to facilitate investigations and prosecutions.
One human rights lawyer commented, “The Court is expressing its independence, demonstrating its liberal beliefs. It has no choice: the EJKEDs can no longer be ignored by the institution supposed to uphold the rule of law; especially if the legislative and executive branches are in default or complicit.”
Taking part in this National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances were state, civil society, Church, and media representatives.
The military (AFP) and police (PNP) were included, though they are almost universally blamed for most of the EJKEDs.
Both institutions deny involvement. The AFP submitted a long list of killings that it attributed to the New People’s Army, the communist rebels.
Few, if any, accept the claim, citing the background of those targeted; usually activists with progressive parties, trade unions, peasant and fisherfolk associations, and even church groups. Another aspect of the slaughter is the focus on professionals: 36 judges and lawyers; 33 journalists (some estimate 50); 25 Church officials and 10 teachers.
These patterns are reminiscent of the infamous Phoenix Program in which U.S. and reactionary South Vietnamese elements engaged in widespread targeted executions of civilian nationalist leaders during the Vietnam War.
That it was left to the Chief Justice to take action indicates the crisis of the Filipino ruling class. The Arroyo administration has been unable, and unwilling, to rein in the military and police. Given their long history of involvement in EJKED, it seems probable they are to some extent following their own agenda, particularly since more than 30 generals and other senior officers hold Cabinet or high civil service