Where’s justice now in Aquino’s first year?

Press Statement
July 22, 2011

As we approach the coming State of the Nation Address, we see the failure of the promise of President Benigno Aquino III to bring justice to the victims of extra-judicial killings and convict the perpetrators.

A year after his first SONA promised “Pananagutin natin ang mga mamamatay-tao”, we see the trial of the Ampatuan massacre still going at a slow pace, and being dragged by the politics of the political warlord clan, including possible compromises under the guise of posing as state witness. This is happening while the families of victims painfully wait for justice.

We also see that the killings of activists, human rights defenders and journalists unabated. Under the Aquino administration, the human rights group Karapatan has documented 48 victims of extrajudicial killings and five documented cases of enforced disappearances.

In its report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted two cases in Region 11 – Mindanao, the deaths of Lumad leader Rudy Dejos in Davao del Sur, and farmer Reynaldo Labrador in Paquibato.  As these international human rights groups’ reports come out, another farmer leader in Davao del Sur has been killed.

As we approach the SONA, the Aquino administration needs to be reminded of its failed promises, not only in uplifting our economic lives, but also the in ending the state of human rights violations and impunity in our country. Farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, and journalists, those who defend the people’s rights, remain targets of impunity.  Paramilitary elements, soldiers and warlords continue to sow terror in communities under the bogus ‘peace and development’ catchphrase of Operational Plan Bayanihan, the sequel to the murderous Oplan Bantay Laya.

It is our urgent call for the Aquino government to show resolve to bring an end to the reign of terror and impunity, and bring justice to the victims.  By failing to prosecute perpetrators of extrajudicial killings under the previous regime, the Aquino government only continues the perpetration of killings under his government.

We urge for an immediate investigation into continuing extrajudicial killings, call for the disbandment of paramilitary groups in Mindanao, and hold those in the military and state security forces accountable for their involvement in the killings.

We also urge the government to have steel resolve in handling the Ampatuan trial and make justice expedient for the families.  We urge caution in handling the testimonies of Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bidol, and not be swayed by their offers to gain political leverage and clemency to diminish their accountability.

We also call on President Aquino to ensure that the public will soon see Gloria Macapagal Arroyo behind the witness stand to account for her own role and culpability in the murderous crime committed by her former political wards in the ARMM.

We urge the Aquino government, pursue genuine justice and peace in Mindanao and for the whole country!