The report of the commission defies good logic and fails to factor in the context and political environment within which the killings were carried out. It made sure that unfounded claims of purges within the Left coming from the military are included
in the report. And while the report also blames security forces for the killings, it effectively absolves their higher-ups by saying that the soldiers acted on their own. This is another way of saying that rabid anti-Red hunters like retired Maj. Gen. Jovito
Palparan and others like him cannot be held accountable for these crimes.
In the case of Palparan, the commission ignored the circumstantial pattern that extrajudicial executions increased in frequency wherever he was assigned. He is only liable under the principle of command responsibility, which implies that his only fault was having failed to rein in his subordinates. The commission just gave the general a slap on the wrist.
Palparan, however, is only one element of a larger picture despite his singular notoriety which Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cited during her State of the Nation Address last year. The ‘salvaging’ incidents occurred not just in areas where he spent his tour of duty but
in other regions as well, and these have continued even after he has retired. In other words, there have been political killings not just because a military officer became obsessed with eliminating dissenters but more importantly because these form part of the
overall counterinsurgency plan. There would still have been killings with Palparan, without Palparan, or perhaps despite Palparan.
It is absurd to heap the blame solely on unidentified individual soldiers for the murders of some 800 activists since 2001. In any military organization no soldier, no matter how lowly, would act without orders from his superior. And he wouldn’t follow an immoral
order – like murdering unarmed civilians — if he is not assured of official protection.
The same holds true for Palparan and likeminded military officials. They have been emboldened in their efforts to crush the legal Left because the policy supports their actions. They are assured that their commander in chief would stand by them knowing fully well that her survival rests on their loyalty.
This is the context that the Melo Commission’s report has ignored – for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, the killing continues.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno received in 1987 the Jose W. Diokno Award for winning in a national editorial writing contest sponsored by Ang Pahayagang Malaya and the family of the former senator. He can be reached at [email protected].)