Thursday, March 26, 2009

Death penalty, judicial killings and human rights violations

IT simply escapes regular imagination why the United States of America, presumably the most educated country the world over, is setting comfortably in the company of China, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Vietnam, Iran, Sudan, Singapore and Japan that kill their very own citizens by judicial electrocutions, hangings, lethal injections, firing squads and even stoning.

“In the Americas, only one state—the United States—consistently executes,” said Amnesty International about the US where death penalty is as common and perfectly judicial as the covert operations of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Americans who are good in rhetoric about democracy and civility are scandalously the third among the four countries in the world that carried 93% of all judicial executions in 2008, coming next to China and Saudi Arabia with Pakistan following.

Europe and Central Asia has become virtually a death-penalty-free zone, according to Amnesty International. Happily, the Philippines has joined the group of the civilized by abolishing death penalty of late.

But ironically enough, while judicial killings have been shelved in the Philippines, the incidence of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances are alarmingly on the rise with a frequency rate that has equaled the times of Martial Law, according to the Report on the National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances convened by the Supreme Court in 2007.

On March 26, 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Philippine National Police to “Stop the killing of journalists” and, sincerely or otherwise—but mostly otherwise—vowed that “We must bring political killings to zero, including assassinations of government officials and media personalities.” Everybody, of course, knows that this was her firecracker reaction to the recent move of a New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists that placed the Philippines on the list of countries where media personnel are allegedly being killed with impunity.

This was what happened when Arroyo organized the Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission in 2006 that came about Shakespearean with “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” And, worse, while this government has been heavily criticized of impunity in the face of killings and human rights violations, it has also been tagged as “in a state of denial” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston.

To the families of victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and gross human rights violations, and to those who are already listed in the order of battle, this blog is dedicated—with the sad thought: while Philippines is rated the most corrupt nation in Asia, is it also the most murderous?

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