SOMEONE ELSE?S WINDOWS: A republic taken hostage

No wonder that the killings of militant activists have persisted despite successive diplomatic pressures on Arroyo to address them. It’s not that her administration – or she herself – has become inured to international censure. It knows the implications of being tagged as a human rights violator, obliging Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to sputter an unflattering description of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston. The irony is that the UN sent Alston upon the [reluctant] invitation of the Philippine government.

At no time has any Philippine government, legitimate or borne out of illegal telephone conversations, taken such level of indifference and hostility towards international opinion on the state of human rights in this country. The first knee-jerk reaction was to rule out the involvement of security forces in the extrajudicial executions and blame these on the communists. Without offering any evidence, the military put out the theory that the slain activists were victims of a purge within the underground movement. This lie, of course, died as soon as it got out of the gates of Camp Aguinaldo.

What has refused to die is the unwritten policy of decimating the Left, legal or underground. For the government, the line between armed revolutionaries and those who advocate social change through parliamentary means has ceased to exist. For the government, rebellion is a state of mind hence, there’s no difference between killing a plain activist and shooting an armed rebel. It is a battle that defies boundaries.

In this kind of atmosphere which is marked by disdain for the rule of law and apathy towards international human rights obligations, those who possess the ultimate instruments of coercion will dictate the rules. Last year’s declaration of a state of emergency, Executive Order 464 and the Calibrated Preemptive Response, signaled a breakdown of liberal democratic processes. These repressive measures, ruled by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, suggest a weakening of civil structures and the resurgence of the military as a dominant political player.

The ascendancy of the military is the single biggest factor that explains the continuing persecution of the legal Left and the impunity that accompanies it. The killing of activists will go on – and is going on – even if conscientious elements of the civil bureaucracy may wish to put a stop to this state of officially sanctioned bloodshed and lawlessness.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, incidentally an Arroyo appointee, recently articulated such concern over the sad state of human rights in the Philippines. He noted the “legal shortcuts” that have been committed in the name of the United States-led war on terror to which the administration has committed the country’s body and soul. He could have said the same of the mounting militarization that has made this republic hostage to the designs of a pampered, partisan AFP.