Aquino perpetuates impunity — Karapatan

Today’s commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity not only highlights the Aquino government’s failure to end impunity but more so, how the government perpetuates impunity.

Since 2009, the backhoe symbolized the Ampatuan massacre where 58 people, including 32 journalists, were felled. Three years after, the backhoe remains a sordid reminder of one of the most palpable illustration of the impunity in the Philippines. Three years after, the backhoe now stands, too, for present-day impunity of the destructive and foreign-owned mining corporations, with Pres. Noynoy Aquino as their gracious host and whose entry into the lands of the indigenous peoples and peasants caused a string of serious human rights violations, and deaths.

As the court hearings for the Ampatuan massacre dawdles, cases of extrajudicial killings and massacres continue, and needless to say, with impunity.

There is the Kananga 3 massacre where botanist Leonard Co and two others were killed; the Mancera massacre in Labo, Camarines Norte that killed Benjamin Mancera, 54, and his two sons, Michael, 10, and Richard, aged seven; and recently, the Capion massacre. Those who were killed in these massacres are among the 114 documented cases of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino presidency.

The killings have even become more gruesome: Genesis Ambason, a Banwaon tribal leader in Agusan del Sur, was shot and tortured to death by CAFGU and elements of the 26th IB. His teeth were all gone and his head shrunk due to heavy beatings; Ely Oguis in Albay was shot and beheaded.

The killings, especially in Mindanao, were a product of the collusion among those in the bureaucracy, the Armed Forces and its paramilitary groups, in the service of big business interests. The victims were indigenous peoples, peasants and environmental activists who are part of the people’s collective action against the plunder of the country’s mineral resources.

The massacre of a Blaan family, the Capions, Juvy Capion and her two sons, by the 27th IB underscores this unholy partnership.  But there are more.

As of September 30, 2012, Karapatan documented at least 66 peasant and 15 indigenous people who are victims of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino administration. Majority, if not all, of the victims campaigned against the incursion of big mining companies and other so-called development projects by the government.  The victims, with other members of their communities, stood for their right to their land. To them, these corporations and militarization only mean economic dislocation and their displacement.

The members of the military and its adjunct paramilitary groups involved in these violations remain unpunished, at best, contained in military barracks as in the case of 27th IB who were involved in the Capion massacre. The Butcher Palparan, for one, remains free almost a year after a warrant of arrest was issued against him; Alde Salusad, also with a standing warrant, continues to sow terror in the community of Jimmy Liguyon, eight months after Salusad killed him. Salusad even hostaged a woman and her children to force those who left their community to return.

The case of Palparan and his ilk of generals can be likened to that of the Ampatuan massacre’s chief warlord-suspects – their hands are drenched with the blood of people they killed yet they are given the luxury of prolonged court proceedings, to wear down the prosecution, and invigorated political power through elections. Impunity, Philippine-style, seems to appear also in the forms of Palparan’s partylist Bantay, which was allowed to run in the 2013 elections, and the 74 Ampatuans who will be running in the 2013 elections, at least 10 of them are under Aquino’s Liberal Party.

The statements and actions of the president and commander in chief Noynoy Aquino has only emboldened the perpetrators to commit such acts, with impunity: the signing of EO 79 to further mineral exploitation under the Mining Act of 1995; the continuing implementation of Executive Order 546 and the creation of additional units of paramilitary groups such as the SCAA to protect mining corporations; and dismissing human rights violations as mere propaganda, among others.

Karapatan stands with journalists, indigenous peoples, peasants, workers, the urban poor, women, students, church workers, lawyers, artists and all who aspire for justice, realization of human rights, genuine democracy and freedom in demanding from the Aquino government to stop the killings and to end impunity.