This is really something to look forward to, so whatever it is that you’re doing at 8:00pm on November 30, reschedule or cancel it and attend this concert instead.
It’s sickening how the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Task Force Usig are crowing about making headway in addressing the issue of extrajudicial killings in the country. We have yet to hear of military officials and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) charged, investigated and then punished for the killings of which there are almost 900. Oplan Bantay Laya 2 remains in effect, and the Arroyo administration remains committed to its cause of protecting the AFP from criminal liability for the killings.
As we see it, Task Force Usig’s main work is to discredit and dismiss the biggest possible number of cases of extrajudicial killings or have them attributed to the New People’s Army (NPA) instead of the AFP. The PNP and Task Force Usig do not seek to solve the cases of extrajudicial killings or to find and punish the perpetrators – they want the issue to disappear. There is no credibility in the methods and processes being utilized by Task Force Usig to address the issue of the killings – it does not take into account the testimonies of eyewitnesses and family members that the victims were killed by elements of the AFP or paramilitary groups like the CAGFU. Task Force Usig mostly relies on police reports and so-called intelligence from their assets in the provinces where the killings took place.
Unless Task Force Usig dares to stand up against the AFP and initiate investigations into the battalions and commands named by the human rights groups as the units responsible for the atrocities, the task force cannot even begin to gain a patina of credibility.
The families of the victims of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings do not trust the PNP or Task Force Usig because from day one, the task force’s proclaimed agenda has not been to find justice for the victims, but to deflect blame from the AFP and the Arroyo administration, and direct it towards the NPA. No genuine, comprehensive and thorough-going investigations have been initiated to get to the truth behind specific cases wherein the perpetrators are clearly members of the military. Task Force Usig keeps a hands-off policy when it comes to the military.
In the meantime, there is reason to be gravely apprehensive regarding the PNP and the Task Force Usig’s boastful claim that they have rounded up suspects and that they are now incarcerated. The PNP has the habit of nabbing innocent civilians and using them as fallguys, presenting them to the media as apprehended suspects just so the PNP can look good and appear that it’s doing its job. There is the dire possibility that these so-called suspects and perpetrators are innocent civilians.
Instead of maintaining an arrogant and antagonistic stance against the human rights groups, Task Force Usig should instead be more cooperative and follow the leads that they have presented, instead of attacking or dismissing them. The PNP and Task Force Usig now stand as the AFP’s first line of defense when it comes to shaking off responsibility for the killings. Besides Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, the PNP and Task Force Usig are among the staunchest defenders of the military.
Outrageous how the National Press Club unilaterally altered the images in this mural made by the Neo-Angono Arts Collective on the theme freedom of the press. The changes are shocking (and ugly – it’s like a vandal made them using a Pentel Pen and a P5 eraser), but what the entire issue implies is much more so — the NPC as an institution shirks away from its responsibility to take a genuine stand on press freedom and, by extension, human rights and the over-all state of the Philippines.
Just now one of the NPC’s spokespersons was interviewed on tv and the man sounded irate. He said that the painting was the NPC’s, and if they wanted to burn the mural, by golly they can burn the thing and no one can stop them!
Who owns the mural is not the issue here — it’s why the NPC made the changes in the mural, and what kind of changes they made.
The artists raising a furor over the issue is not surprising, but it’s not only because their work was tampered with without their knowledge or approval, but mostly because the changes were made to weaken the message of the mural, to placate Malacanang and the military who saw ‘leftist influences’ in the work.
So much for freedom of expression and the responsibility of media institutions to defend it: the NPC caved in like a pack of cards. They paid the artists P900,000 to paint the mural, but the money didn’t cover the artists’ convictions or political beliefs or their own commitment to the cause of freedom of the press. It’s so embarrassing and shameful how the NPC is even trying to justify its stupidity by saying that it paid for the mural so it could do whatever the heck it wanted with it. The NPC all the more exposes what kind of institution it is and what it stands for now at this age and age when press freedom and human rights are under attack — it wielded its own paintbrush and painted over the truth just because the military didn’t agree with it.