CenPEG | The Truth Commission: Will Justice Be Served?

However, in any of the possible areas of investigation, evidences, documents, and testimonies are already ample and available these having been gathered in numerous hearings and investigations done by both government and constitutional bodies as well as by credible independent groups and international organizations. The truth that the commission seeks to find and consolidate is distilled in these data that can be used to build a strong case. With all the information available, it would be redundant for the Truth Commission to conduct another lengthy investigation especially when what is needed at this time is speedy justice.

Regardless, the Truth Commission will conduct its own inquiry. For investigation to be credible it will have to summon not only the principal respondent but all other authorities and individuals without whose complicit role the alleged crimes would not have been committed and several laws violated in a period of nine years. These elements are still entrenched in government, hold powerful positions whether in the civilian or military-police institutions and, who knows, a number of them have been appointed or re-appointed in the Aquino cabinet.

Then, what?

Granting an investigation is done, how will the prosecution then proceed? Aquino III needs all the political will and support he can muster just to overhaul the Arroyo-appointed Ombudsman and other legal bodies so that the judicial process can move forward. Without congressional enactments, however, the agencies concerned cannot just be made to act accordingly these being constitutional bodies. The Philippine justice system is weak and unreliable yet too politicized that legitimate cases not to mention charges involving the powers that be will not prosper.

With all these gridlocks, there are courses of action that the new president can – and should – do without even waiting for the Truth Commission to begin its herculean task. For instance, he should now rein in the military and assert civilian authority by terminating the counter-insurgency program that continues to involve political killings and buckle down to serious peace talks with the armed Left and MILF. He should order the justice department to proceed with the first complaint filed against Arroyo instead of holding it in abeyance in deference to the Truth Commission. He can ask Congress to act on a pending bill increasing the powers of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the prosecution of erring military and police forces.

A historical lesson is worth mentioning at this point. Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by people power in 1986 following years of corruption, plunder, and human rights violations. But the first directive issued by Corazon Aquino when she took over the presidency is to provide immunity from prosecution to all Marcos officials and generals involved in human rights cases. There was “reconciliation” with the oppressors; victims have long been forgotten to this day. With all this betrayal, thousands of torture victims filed a class suit against the Marcoses in Honolulu and succeeded in getting a conviction later.


This only proves that justice cannot await any government action. It is up for victims of rights violations and those directly or indirectly affected by corruption, plunder, and electoral fraud to by, their own efforts, let justice bear upon the perpetrators. Legal alternatives can be mulled on how and where legitimate cases against Arroyo and company can be filed. Hope is not lost; only the collective will of the people can make it happen.

Truth Commissions emerged from civil strife and transitional periods in some countries of South America, Africa, and Asia during the 1970s. Generally, they dealt with human rights with investigations focused on patterns of mass killings and state-sponsored terrorism. Their role is as part of the “healing process” that aims to put closure to a history of repression and provide trauma healing and restorative justice to its victims and their surviving families. These high expectations were, however, not generally met because some of the commissions lacked impartiality or independence. In other countries, amnesties were given right away to perpetrators at the expense of the victims themselves. Some transitional governments used the truth commission as a means of reconciling with the past – without necessarily allowing justice to prevail. (Bulatlat.com)

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