Mayo 29, 2007

Phl - Disaster area for human rights


The Philippine Star

There are license plates that have been traced to a vehicle impounded at the compound of the Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion based in Norzagaray, Bulacan. There are eyewitnesses who have described the appearances of the suspects. And yet the family of Jonas Burgos marked Monday the 30th day of his disappearance with police investigators still unable to identify any suspect. What will it take to solve this case?

Burgos, a son of the late publisher and press freedom fighter Jose Burgos Jr., is not even the latest addition to the long list of the Philippines’ version of desaparecidos – the “disappeared.” The latest case was reported last Sunday, when a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, who used to be a regional officer of Bayan, was abducted in Biñan, Laguna.

Like the unexplained killings since the restoration of democracy in 1986, the disappearances have raised international concern about the human rights situation in the Philippines. The issue has hounded President Arroyo in her visit to New Zealand, where the Philippines was described as a “disaster area” for human rights, and is bound to bedevil her in her globetrotting.

Denying state involvement in the killings and abductions is not enough; the cases must be solved and the perpetrators captured and punished. With killings and abductions remaining unexplained, it is easy for left-wing militants, who are the principal targets, to accuse the administration of systematic violations of human rights.

There should be no place for these violations in a democracy, especially under the watch of a President who was installed in Malacañang on the wings of people power. Yet unexplained killings and disappearances continue. The failure to solve the killings has also undermined free elections, with politicians eliminating their rivals through murder.

With protesters greeting her visit in Wellington Monday, President Arroyo welcomed international help in dealing with political violence and human rights violations in the Philippines. But what can the international community do, apart from raising concern and providing forensic expertise and equipment? If the Arroyo administration truly does not sanction these blatant violations of human rights, the best way to prove it is by catching and punishing the culprits. The Chief Executive must read the riot act to her military and police officers: their jobs will depend on stopping the killings and abductions.

Posted by marga at Mayo 29, 2007 3:47 PM | TrackBack
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