[Statement] Where is the road that ends impunity? -PAHRA

“Ang mali – gaano katagal man ito nanatili – ay mali pa rin.
Hindi puwedeng “Oks lang, wala lang iyan.”
Kapag kinalimutan natin ang mga ito,
mangyayari lang ulit ang mga kamalian ng nakaraan.
Kung hindi magbabayad ang mga nagkasala,
parang tayo na rin mismo ang nag-imbita
sa mga nagbabalak gumawa ng masama na umulit muli.”

President Benigno Aquino III. SONA July 2011


President Benigno Aquino III, in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) popularly well defined impunity. That which is wrong, no matter how long it remains, is still wrong. No way can anyone say after sometime that: “It already is OK. Let bygone’s be bygone’s.”

Victims of human rights violations and their families took heart at Mr. Aquino’s statement taken it to mean that he was setting a course to break from the past culture of impunity and embark on building a course that ensures the primacy of human rights and the rule of law. It meant a road built on truth, justice, as well as guaranteeing reparation and compensation for victims. It was also expected to include institutional reforms to make sure of non-recurrence of similar violations.

And yet, as gleaned in the following sample cases, impunity persists.

The families of six workers from Trento, Agusan del Sur, still await the fate of their members since the latter were abducted last October 14, 2000. A soldier witness testified to their being beaten to death by lead pipes, later buried and bodies burnt. This was a case personally presented to Mr. Aquino early in his Presidency which has no resolution till now.

In Dona Remedios Trinindad, Bulacan, Nicanor Mariano, a charcoal maker, was killed while sleeping with some family members in a hut during a military operation on July 19, 2011. Nicanor and his wounded son, Norman, were later labelled as NPA members. No justice has been obtained by the family till now.

In the same Central Luzon province, the Manalo brothers identified then General Jovito Palaparan, Jr. during their 18-month custody with the military since 14 February 2006 as the command responsible for their abduction and torture until their escape. Palparan is presently being sought for being responsible for the kidnapping and illegal detention of U.P. students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The students are nowhere to be found till now. Palparan’s whereabouts are also unknown till now.

Human rights violations may well recur again and again as, for the third year, there is no National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) that would guide this administration’s obligation of conduct and of result in ending impunity. The Chief Executive has command responsibility here.

The truth of human rights violations is blocked. People are deprived of the freedom of information. Impunity, not only against civil and political rights, but also against economic, social and cultural rights would be further entrenched.

Legislators are an integral force in ending impunity by passing laws, such as the one against enforced disappearance, as well as the passage for the compensation for victims of human rights violations during Martial Law. Both chambers of Congress must therefore strengthen our Commission on Human Rights (CHR) by fast-tracking the passage of its new Charter. The Senate, on the other hand, should already ratify the U.N. Convention against enforced disappearance.

Local authorities should resolve the impunity of juvenile crime not by lowering the age of criminality but exercising extraordinary due diligence in implementing the law on juvenile justice.

PAHRA calls on all human rights defenders to resolutely breakthrough impunity by making human rights our preferred values in governance, development and peace.

PAHRA demands from the Aquino government its obligation a plan to end impunity.

Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
July 23, 2012

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