Saturday, March 21, 2009

A government of Impunity

BISHOP Dinualdo Gutierrez of the diocese of Marbel has strongly condemned the killing of Eliezer Billanes last March 9 in Koronadal City. Billanes has been a partner of the Social Action Center of the diocesan Social Action Center of Marbel while working as Executive Director of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Timug Kutabato (SAMATIKU). He was known for his hard stand against all forms of development aggressions especially the presence of the large scale mining company in Tampakan.

Billanes is among the latest of hundreds of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances which have been commonplace in the country today. The Permanent People’s Tribunal convened in The Hague, Netherlands in March 2007 lists 778 victims of extrajudicial killings. The number keeps growing by the day.

The National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances sponsored by the Supreme Court of the Philippines in July 2007 admitted that “since 2001, a rise in cases of extralegal killings and disappearances in the Philippines, the scale of which has been likened to those during Martial Law, has been the center of national and global concern…and the number of unsolved political killings of activists, media personnel, and judges has become alarming.”

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston visited the country in February 2007 and came up with the study that unmistakably pointed the military on top of the perpetrators—which then Chief of Staff of the Armed forces of the Philippines Hermogenes Esperon quickly denied, saying “the Armed Forces never had and never will have a policy of deliberately targeting civilians including those who may have a different political orientation.”

In the face of this serious situation which Chief Justice Reynato Puno calls as “brazen assaults on the rule of law”, all that the Arroyo Administration did was organize Task Force Usig with the Philippine National Police on the lead and convened the Melo Commission in 2006—and forgot all about it, perhaps in lieu of some more profitable ventures.

The country, and more so, the grieving families of victims still have to see a single criminal punished for such a heinous crime which violates the most basic and fundamental right to life from where all other rights begin.

If only for this, and without naming corruption and other highlights of the day, the government is definitely a failure. A government that fails to bring perpetrators to justice and deny victims’ right to justice and redress is one that is technically incapable of governance where the rule of law should be supreme.

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