Impunity Kills

Philippine Online Chronicles
Published 18 December 2009

When there are thousands of victims of extra-judicial killings and not a single one is prosecuted, impunity can be the second deadliest thing next to the executioners.

The Maguindanao massacre accentuated the gross human rights violations and the climate of impunity under President Gloria Arroyo’s watch.  Multi-sectoral alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) pointed out in its statement that the pervading climate of impunity laid the conditions for the execution of the massacre, aside from Arroyo’s policy of beefing up private armies.

On the observance of the International Human Rights Day last Dec. 10, the same cries for justice rang even louder nationwide, hinting at how the human rights situation have worsened since Arroyo came into power. Commission on Human Rights Chair (CHR) Leila de Lima said the Maguindanao massacre “only made the human rights situation in the country dismal,” Inquirer.net reported.

Workers and kin of slain unionists march to Malacañang to demand justice to all victims of trade union repression (taken Sept. 18, '09)

Human rights group Karapatan showed in its yearend report that the figures have swelled in the last eight years and 10 months. The breakdown of data is as follows – 1,118 extrajudicial killings, 204 victims of forced disappearances and 1,026 victims of torture. The group blamed the worsening human rights abuses on the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), branding it as a “blueprint for terror and impunity.”

Attacks on all fronts

In the same report, Karapatan cited key cases of human rights violations for this year, indicating a broad range of victims’ profile and different forms by which violations were carried out. Victims were killed in almost all kinds of situations: in broad daylight, in the picketlines, or in front of family members.

Among the cases cited were the assassination of Roman Catholic priest Fr. Cecilio Lucero; the abduction and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas, who was accused as a member of the New People’s Army; and the harassment of National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, whose house was kept under surveillance by a member of the Philippine Marines.

OBL 2 was said to be unparalleled “as it lumps together as targets the armed revolutionary movement, legal democratic organizations which have been historically in the forefront of the protest movement in the country, media, and the political opposition.” It also linked the policy to the “War on Terror” of the United States, which has resulted in the terrorist-tagging of government critics.

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