Delivered by FR. REX RB. REYES, End Impunity Alliance convenor; General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Los desaparecidos, those who disappeared. Abducted at night, the worst fate to be feared. To have spoken one word too many, or one word too loud, The very next day, to vanish in the crowd. Thousands, taken, one by one Fathers, and brothers, and wives, and daughters. Through mother’s pain and families’ grief Hope clings to one belief, One day, they wish, he will be found, he will be found.
– Esperanza Pacheco Cortez
In the news: “Another one was killed. Another one had disappeared.” Human rights violations (HRVs) keep on happening without let up. In the nine (9) years of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s reign, more than a thousand are victims of extrajudicial killing and 206 forcibly disappeared, 1,099 tortured, 2,059 were illegally arrested. On the other hand, in a span of two (2) years of President Noynoy Aquino’s presidency, Karapatan documented 137 victims of extrajudicial killing, 14 of enforced disappearance, 72 of torture, 269 of illegal arrest.
A question is, my friends and fellow Filipinos: why do such human rights violations persist with impunity even under the Aquino administration?
It is perhaps because no one is held accountable, prosecuted and convicted. It is perhaps because promotions of the violators to higher and more powerful positions were done, as if to encourage the commission of such heinous acts. It is perhaps nothing has been sincerely done and worse, state security forces are emboldened to commit atrocities over and over again knowing they can get away with these.
We, in the End Impunity Alliance, believe that the occurrence of such violations in the country emanates from the state policy to muzzle principled dissent and the exercise of our rights, as embodied in the operational plans of the government.
To be critical of the government, to rally against its repressive policies, to fight for the rights and the cause of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized peoples is subversion. The powers- that-be are so threatened and desperate that they resort to violence. It is very much like the time of Christ when the Pharisees and the ruling class were threatened by Christ’s teachings and mass support.
But let us not lose heart. Let us not be intimidated by such power and instrument for repression. Instead, let us be inspired and emboldened. Let us be inspired that there are mothers, like Edith Burgos, whose untiring efforts in the pursuit of justice for her missing son have shaken the authorities and the system. Let us be inspired and emboldened by the many mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and relatives of victims and victims themselves, who are not cowed by state security forces’ reprisals and continue to sacrifice and fight for justice and a just system, where man’s inhumanity to man no longer exists.