An Appraisal: Cory Aquino and Human Rights

Tuazon said operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), particularly Gen. John K. Singlaub, were involved in the LIC implementation in the Philippines. Singlaub, who publicly admitted that his goal was to help finance, organize and arm anti-communist insurgencies in Southeast Asia, had met with top officials of the Cory government.

A major component of the LIC is the formation of vigilante groups or anti-communist civilian militias in both urban and rural areas. These vigilante groups not only performed police and military activities but also tortured, maimed, mutilated and killed suspected symphatizers of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Before Cory’s term ended in 1992, some 50 right-wing vigilante groups backed by the military were formed all over the country.

Among the most notorious of these civilian militiamen was Edilberto Manero, who led the Tadtad, an anti-communist religious cult in North Cotabato that killed Fr. Tullio Favali in 1987 and, according to reports, ate part of the Italian priest’s brain. Cults such as the Tadtad were widely used by Cory’s military as part of its LIC strategy against the Communists.

Two massacres preceded the collapse of the peace talks between the Cory regime and the revolutionary forces. On Jan. 22, 1987, at the historic Mendiola bridge, combined elements of the police and military opened fire at a rally of farmers demanding for genuine land reform. Thirteen farmers were killed and hundreds were wounded.

A month later, on Feb. 10, 1987, another massacre took place. Seventeen civilians, including six children and two elderly were killed by government troops in sitio Padlao, barangay Namulandayan, Lupao, in Nueva Ecija province. The 24 soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion who were allegedly involved in the massacre were later acquitted by the military court.

Two leaders of progressive organizations were also assassinated. On Sept. 19, 1987, Lean Alejandro, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan was gunned down. Earlier, on Nov. 13, 1986, labor leader Rolando Olalia and his driver-companion Leonor Alay-ay were brutally murdered. Cory herself vowed to bring the killers to court but the cases were never solved.

Vestiges of Marcos Dictatorship

While the Cory administration formally restored democratic institutions, it failed to dismantle the vestiges of the Marcos dictatorship.

Many of Marcos’s presidential decrees and laws remained in force. These include Presidential Decree 1866, which is often used to charge Leftist activists for “illegal possession of firearms,” and Marcos’s “general orders” that is used to put up military and police checkpoints.

Cory herself issued repressive measures including Executive Order 272 that extended the period required to bring arrested persons to court and Executive Order 264 creating the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Units (Cafgu), which had been blamed for many of the atrocities during Cory’s time.

While Cory released political prisoners, among her very first acts after Edsa 1 was to give amnesty to perpetrators of human-rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship. “She gave a blanket amnesty to the architects and implementors of martial law,” Tuazon, the UP professor, said. The amnesty was given despite the clamor for justice and accountability among the thousands of Marcos victims.

“Not a single human-rights violator had been properly and successfully prosecuted and punished,” said Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, a longtime activist and chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). Worse, victims of human-rights abuses during Marcos “never got justice nor indemnification.”

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