Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. – Article 8, UN Declaration of Human Rights
Impunity continues because no one is made accountable for the heinuous crimes committed.
And even if alleged perpetrators are caught and jailed, the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly. Relatives of the 57 victims of the now infamous Ampatuan massacre in November 2009 continue to experience fear for their own lives, given the continued political clout and military might of the clan of the accused perpetrators of the crime.
The assassination of Benjamin Bayles (Karapatan-Negros) in June 2010 is typical of EJKs in the Philippines. He was the 1,200th victim since 2001, but his case is special because, for the first time, the suspected perpetrators had been caught by the police. The two accused initially introduced themselves as members of the Philippine Army but later claimed to be a driver and a fisherman.
Military officials had been denying that the accused are members of the Philippine Army for 4 months, until the Philippine Army Headquarters finally and officially confirmed their membership and ranks last 9 October 2010. The army was cornered due to the facts and information gathered and made public by civic society groups.
Yet vital witnesses to the killing are continuously harrassed by elements of the Philippine Army, but they remain steadfast and committed to acquiring justice for Bayles.
The Aquino government fails to render justice to victims of human rights violations and their families. No one during his almost one and a half years in office has been prosecuted among the perpetrators of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and military atrocities in the countryside. Like any traditional politician, he has turned his back on his election campaign promises.
There are also more than 4,000 victims of forced evacuation due to the intense military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in various communities, especially in the rural areas.
Impunity prevails because, while Noynoy Aquino makes pronouncements on advancing human rights, his government continues to pursue the same kind of state terrorism against the people.He extended Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) up to end December 2010. In January 2011 he supposedly launched a new counter‐insurgency program dubbed Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay). But close scrutiny and actual implementation on the ground show that it is but a continuation of OBL cloaked with supposed “respect for human rights,” “peace” and “development.” Combat operations and violence against the people remain to be at the oplan’s core. Its adherence to the U.S. COIN (COunterINsurgency) Guide can not be denied.
Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said that the struggle for human rights shall continue. “The triumphs of the struggles for human rights are not won overnight, it is incremental, cumulative, arduous and require continuing sacrifice and struggle. The government, having absolute powers, will never tire to suppress the people. There is no other choice for the people but to fight for and defend their rights.”
Concerned individuals and organizations in the Philippines have recently formed the End Impunity Alliance and publicly call for the following as they celebrate the first International Day to End Impunity (23 November):
Stop the Killings! End impunity now!
- Immediately pull out military troops and stop their encampments in militarized communities. This is necessary to put a stop to various atrocities including harassment and intimidation by government soldiers especially in rural areas far from the reach of media which can make such human rights violations public.
- Disband all paramilitary and armed civilian volunteer organizations which are “auxiliary forces” of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP). They are military force multipliers which harass, threaten and commit grave human rights violations, as evidenced by the Ampatuan massacre and incidents in many provinces. They are formed or contracted to guard mining concession agribusiness plantations and other foreign corporate activities. They serve the local warlords.
- Stop the vilification campaign against human rights defenders. By maliciously linking social activists to the New People’s Army and branding them as communists and enemies of the state, the military has made them open targets for “neutralization” (euphemism for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution) and various other forms of human rights violation.
- Stop the arbitrary arrest and detention of activists and leaders of the democratic movement, and heaping upon them fabricated criminal charges. Release all political prisoners immediately!
Scrap Oplan Bayanihan which is a blueprint for state terrorism!
Let us echo these calls and together with the Filipino people, continue to demand for justice and an end to impunity.