COMMENT: Tough for PGMA

One explanation is obvious: Low level of credibility does not inspire confidence. The surviving victims, relatives of the slain and other witnesses refused to cooperate.

 

The imperative is clear: The nut has to be cracked. The President is the only person who should make it happen. No passing of the buck.

 

UNCHR Welcomed

 

Philip Alston, special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, must have understood President Arroyo’s predicament when he and his five-man team conducted hearings in Davao City last Sunday, February 18.

 

As reported by MindaNews: (1) Relatives of the 23 Moro inmates killed in Camp Bagong Diwa on March 15, 2005 came all the way from Basilan to present to the UNCHR team their case – arbitrary arrest and summary killing.

 

(2) Karapatan Southern Mindanao met with the UN team and submitted documents for 33 cases of human rights violations and political killings. These included the extrajudicial killings of peasant leaders, a Bayan Muna provincial chair, massacres, and murder and frustrated murder of striking banana workers in Regions X, XI and Caraga.

 

That the surviving victims, the relatives of the slain and the human rights and militant groups opened up to the UNCHR team but not to the Melo Commission, despite the integrity of its members, was a big, loud slap to the Arroyo government.

 

A Big Puzzle

 

President Arroyo has all the power and means – constitutional, legal, military, and police – to resolve judicial killings. Why she has not used them is a big puzzle. Meanwhile, the problem has become monstrous and she has lost credibility and the confidence of many.

 

A few times since January 20, 2001 that she used her power and means, she got results. This was so when she ordered the police crackdown on kidnapping, drug trafficking and jueteng – the last, in response to exposes and congressional investigations.

 

Victims of judicial killings were (1) journalists, (2) leftists and militants, and (3) drug pushers and juvenile delinquents in Davao City who were victims of death squads. For the first two categories, the Philippines has gained international notoriety.

 

President Arroyo has shown much concern – sincere, if not feigned — for the killing of journalists but never for that of leftists and militants. This is very significant. The truth behind this may explain why she has not used the power and means at her disposal despite her resolve: “I aim to stop it once and for all.”

 

Counterinsurgency

 

Is it true that the leftist and militant groups are in the military “Order of Battle” or hit list as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)? And that the killing of leftist and militant leaders was sanctioned under “Oplan Bantay Laya”, the counterinsurgency plan of the Arroyo government?

 

On this premise, the Arroyo government is the mastermind of the killings, the military and the police are the executors. Consequently, President Arroyo cannot order the military and the police to go after themselves. To do so sincerely would be to abort the plan and ruin morale.

 

The pattern and manner of the killings indicate that they were not ordinary crimes but planned and carried out systematically. AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has admitted the involvement of soldiers. This gives credence to the claim of human rights, leftist and militant groups.

 

If the obvious is true, what President Arroyo is being asked to do is tough: Order the killings stopped at the sacrifice of the counterinsurgency plan at the risk of losing the loyalty of the military and the police. She has hedged and killed time with rhetoric.

 

Melo Report

 

The more President Arroyo, her advisers and generals extemporize, the more they enmesh themselves in their own contradictions. The Melo Commission Report was the latest of the many occasions.

 

While copies of the Report were released to the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights teams, these were at first withheld. That fueled the more the question: What is the Arroyo government hiding?

 

There must be much to hide. That the Report held Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, notorious to the leftists and militants as berdugo (butcher), and other commanders responsible for the extrajudicial killings points to the findings as incriminating the military – hence, Malacañang’s refusal to release the Report to the media.

 

That the Report is incomplete – covering only 10 percent of the cases – is a thin cover. National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said, “We are all after the truth, so we will have to release it to appropriate bodies” – but not yet to the Filipino people.

 

Indefinitely, Gonzales said in effect, the Report will be hidden. In wondering why critics had accused Malacañang of hiding the Report, Gonzales exemplified the feigners – the grand contradiction — in the Arroyo government.

 

Can Amirah Ali Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro be faulted in her statement – referring to the Report — that the Arroyo government has “many skeletons in their (sic) closet” and “the victims and their families have doubts that justice will prevail under the Arroyo administration”?

 

Optimistic

 

Gonzales expressed the hope of Malacañang that the issue of judicial killings would be resolved soon. Like Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, he is pinning his optimism on the independent investigation of EU and UN teams – not under the umbrella of the Melo Commission as stated by Bunye.

 

“The government intends to work with the UN to get at the root of the matter,” Bunye said. While the families of slain victims would not cooperate with the Melo Commission, he welcomed their cooperation with Alston and his team.

 

The findings of the EU and UN investigators, Bunye said, will be used by the government to complete the Melo Report to resolve permanently the extrajudicial killing issue.

 

Their recommendations are most welcome by the government,” Gonzales said, believing that the EU and UN teams would tell the Arroyo government “how to proceed”.

 

Still Tough

 

With all its rhetoric, will the Arroyo government allow the EU and the UN to independently probe the extrajudicial and political killings? IF they so recommend:

 

Will the government prosecute General Palparan and other commanders deemed responsible for the killings?

 

Will President Arroyo order the newly launched “Oplan Bantay Laya II” dissolved and the military counterinsurgency plan reviewed as recommended?

 

If the BIG IFs and more materialize, telling the Arroyo government “how to proceed”, they would be tough recommendations to crack the tough nut. Will President Arroyo, her advisers and generals comply?

 

("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected])

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