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Aquino needs fewer words, more action

Extrajudicial killings must end and perpetrators must be punished

  • Renato Mabunga, Manila
  • Philippines
  • July 16, 2012
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In 2010 President Benigno Aquino said the process of providing "true and complete justice for all" has begun. Two years later, human rights groups documented 13 cases of summary executions.

The latest victim of the assassins was Dutch missionary Wilhelmus Geertman, a Church worker who opted to live with the poor. He was killed by still unidentified assailants on July 3 in Angeles City in the province of Pampanga.

Later this month, when President Aquino delivers his state of the nation address, we expect another promise to put killers and human rights violators behind bars.

Whether in words or intentions, common to both Aquino's pronouncements and the statements of victims of rights violations is the longing for justice.

For two years, the president has expressed weariness over worrying about justice. The families of victims, meanwhile, worry about weathering justice. The president's weariness has been interpreted as procrastination. The victims' call is a virtue to action.

The government has been quick to debunk accusations that it is doing nothing. Government officials said cases have been filed and everything has been done within the powers of the courts. The executive department has been helpless about it, Aquino spokesmen have said.

Indeed, the president need not interfere in court proceedings, but he has all the powers to ensure truthful and impartial investigations and the strength of his office to get rid of "scalawags in uniform."

The president can indeed regulate the greed of business interests that hire goons to harass communities and kill environmental and human rights activists. His is the influence to assure communities that harm will never beset those who testify in cases against rights violators and criminals.

It is not how much one has projected one's intentions. It is how far one has combated impunity. It is not the number of cases filed but how many convictions have resulted from it. It is not comparison of statistics from former administrations but how justice is rendered and how strong mechanisms are instituted to stop extrajudicial killings.

Extrajudicial executions are not accidental. These are planned to wipe out hindrances to attaining vested desires. Assassinations are grandiose displays of wickedness. The weapon is brutality, impunity its armor and terror its strength.

These killings sow fear and disintegrate communities, leading to apathy. But they can never put down people aware of their rights and convinced in the validity of their actions. They can never silence the truth.

Killing, aside from violating non-derogable rights, is an infringement of the collective right to a peaceful environment where the free flow of ideas flourishes for the common good.

The government is duty-bound to protect the people not only against itself but against those that would intend to disrupt the process. Aquino needs to know that his administration must use compassion in protecting its people and firm conviction against perpetrators.

The government has to shield itself with transparency and command responsibility. It must find itself building peace through works of justice, not worrying about when justice comes.

Renato Mabunga is chairman of Human Rights Defenders, a lobbyist at the UN Human Rights Council and a regional educator on human rights
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