By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – “A mere gimmick.”
That’s what two progressive lawmakers think of the announcement by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that she would put up a 25-million-peso reward fund to solve the political killings in the Philippines.
On Tuesday, Arroyo urged lawmakers to contribute 250,000 pesos each from their Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), or pork barrel, to build the fund. She said she the reward system for informants can help solve the murders of political activists, which have worsened under her administration.
House Minority Deputy Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo said Arroyo’s idea addresses only the latest spate of killings that appear to have partisan political or personal vendetta angles.
“It tends to draw attention away from the longer list of extrajudicial killings of political activists since 2001 that have been ascribed to state security forces by the Melo Commission and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston,” Ocampo said.
According to Karapatan, the human-rights group, 1,013 activists, human-rights advocates, peasant leaders, farmers, journalists, among others, have been victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001 – the year Arroyo took power — up to March 31 this year.
Alston visited the Philippines in February 2007 to investigate several of these cases. The Melo Commission, on the other hand, was formed by Arroyo in August 2006 to do the same thing. Both investigations concluded that in most of these killings, state security forcers were involved. Alston was particularly specific in putting the blame on the military while the Melo Commission said that, at the very least, the military is liable under the principle of command responsibility.
“Mrs. Arroyo’s order smacks of a cover-up on her regime’s culpability in the extra-judicial killings of political activists and journalists,” Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said on Wednesday. “This government continues to be in a state of denial,” he added, echoing a conclusion reached by Alston.
Mariano said that the killings can be stopped without the government having to spend a single cent. “The only thing Mrs. Arroyo must do is to comply with the recommendations of Prof. Alston,” he said.
In his 2007 report, Alston recommended the removal of extrajudicial killings in the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) and the abolition of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). Human-rights groups have accused the IALAG of being responsible for the fabrication of criminal charges against activists and government critics.
Alston also said in his report that the principle of command responsibility must be ensured as basis for criminal liability to prosecute military officers.
“At bottom, her order is sheer posturing, an excuse for inaction on the political killings under her watch,” Ocampo said.
Moreover, according to Mariano, there is the likelihood that the money, which is equivalent to $521,779, will only be used by state agents to intensify the ongoing persecution of progressives.’
“Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal of generals’ ‘blame-the-victim’ line in the extrajudicial killings persist,” he said. “They can easily fabricate cases against progressives and present paid false witnesses, like what they continuously do to us,” Mariano said. (Bulatlat.com)