The countdown to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC)’s Universal Periodic Review has begun, and we can see the efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime. Unang-una na ang mga reports ng kapulisan that they have gained headway in the investigation of the extrajudicial killings of political activists. For the past two weeks, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its Task Force Usig (TFU) have been releasing reports to the media about its so-called achievements in this area.
It’s outrageous how the ad hoc body of the PNP tasked to investigate cases of “unexplained killings” asserts that the PNP has acted on more than half of 141 verified incidents, leading to the filing of 83 cases, the arrest of 28 suspects, the surrender of 14 others and the conviction of four assailants. The TFU said that a total of 29 incidents of killings of political activists involved members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
It’s highly improbable for the PNP and TFU to have conducted credible and through investigations into the killings. It’s even more improbable that the court cases the PNP is now bragging to have filed on the extrajudicial political killings bear any genuine, factual or legal credibility How could there be? There have been no cooperative efforts between the TFU and the families of the victims and the human rights groups helping the families. The families are highly distrustful of the TFU and its findings.
Sa tutoo lang, there is neither truth nor credibility in the findings of the PNP and the TFU. The TFU’s main mission is to discredit, dismiss or pass-off the almost 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights workers, church people and activist lawyers. Even United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has said that in his November 2007 Report that the Philippine military had systematically hunted down leftist activists in the course of an anticommunist campaign. Alston’s report also dismissed the “internal purge” theory, but TFU continues to use this malicious and fallacious theory because it’s convenient for them on the one hand; and it serves to deflect blame from the real perpetrators among the military carrying out the killings under Oplan Bantay Laya.
What is clear is that the fabricated findings and bloated, self-serving reports of TFU will also be used by the official government representatives to the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country’s human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council on April 11. The government wants to make its human rights record less bloody that it really is, and its agencies are now above fabricating lies, twisting facts and rushing the filing of legal cases to do it.
The TFU itself is prone to fabricating findings regarding the killings and passing these fake and manufactured findings as legitimate results of their investigations. In August 2006, the TFU announced its supposed findings on the killings of lawyer Felidito Dacut, Bayan Muna (People First) regional coordinator; Rev. Edison Lapuz, chairman of Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, the regional chapter of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights); Atty. Norman Bocar (Bayan-Eastern Visayas) and Pax Diaz, chairperson of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) in Eastern Visayas and said that they were victims of the NPA’s ‘purge’ and killed as punishment for ‘financial opportunism.’
The task force was also quick to declare the brutal assassination of the Right Rev. Alberto Ramento, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Tarlac and the Diocese of Ilocos Norte and 9th Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) as an ordinary criminal case. Bishop Ramento was brutally stabbed inside his convent on October 3, 2006. The TFU said that the Bishop’s murder was not politically motive, but a case of robbery with homicide.
On the whole, the TFU’s version of investigating in practice only means collecting unverified data from the local police task forces and piecing them to together. The cut and dried conclusion in the end is always the same: it’s either the killing was a result of a common crime, or the revolutionary movement was behind it.
As has been pointed out by many others, the country’s justice system has continues to suffer from various ills, including corruption, influence peddling, lack of resources, insufficient funding and low wages, making law enforcement officials vulnerable to bribery and powerful special interests.
Because of these inherent weaknesses, the families of the victims of human rights victims see very little hope that the cases of their loved ones will be given justice. Human rights lawyers have themselves become targets of threats and other acts of intimidation; the same goes for witnesses. Even as the government insists that it harnesses and mobilizes the entire government resources investigate the killings, what is evident is that there is no genuine effort to prosecute and punish the real perpetrators. While it appears that it has already taken steps to address the worsening human rights violations in the country, the fact remains that the violations persist and justice remains elusive for the victims and their families.
So long as the Arroyo government maintains its all-it war policy against its political opponents including legal activists, the killings will continue. So long as the butchers in the AFP have the full support and encouragement of the administration, the list of human rights victims will lengthen. No number of task forces, commissions or special courts will be able to put an end to them and give justice to the victims. The government cannot even stick to the truth when it comes to the documentation and verification of the killings and the circumstances surrounding them.
Napakalaking kasinungalingan ang isisiwalat ng gobyerno sa UPR — hugay kamay sa lahat ng kaso ng pagpaslang sa mga aktibista, kahit pa hinding-hindi maitatanggi na nagmantsa na ang dugo ng mga biktima sa mga palad ng mga berdugong sugo ng pamahalaan.