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Getting away with murder

opinion / Columns
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There’s The Rub

Getting away with murder

Thank God for the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. It is one church that has lived up to its calling of following in the footsteps of the person or divinity it is named after. It is the one church that has exposed the hypocrisies of the Pharisees and their State patrons. It is the one church that has flailed at the merchants in the temple, driving them away with the wrathful reminder, or warning, that the temple is a house of prayer and not a house of commerce.

It is the one church that has consistently and tirelessly fought oppression in this country, from Marcos’ time to this time. As opposed to the Catholic Church which has, with few exceptions, consistently and tirelessly championed it. And it has paid the price for it.

For which it now seeks justice. The UCCP has just filed a case against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the murder of six of its officials.

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The crime took place in 2005-2007 when Arroyo unleashed “Oplan Bantay-Laya”—and Jovito Palparan—on the country while boasting that she would end the insurgency in two years. When what she really meant was that she would end popular dissent in two months, “communists” being defined in her time, as in Marcos’ time, as everyone opposed to her illegitimate rule. She did neither. But she did succeed in massacring, as in Marcos’ time, hundreds of Filipinos, among them clergy and lay members of the UCCP.

“We take action,” says Bishop Norman Marigza, UCCP secretary general, “against the relentless persecution and brutalization of the Church, especially being labeled ‘enemy of the state’ through various counterinsurgency operations of the military establishment. This false and malicious tag has permitted UCCP persons to be ‘neutralized’ in the name of so-called national security…. [During Arroyo’s time] numerous church pastors and leaders were either liquidated, harassed, unlawfully detained or tortured with impunity by military agents and operatives, who, by law, were then all under her ultimate control and command responsibility.”

About time somebody did this. The only other group so far that has filed charges against Arroyo for human rights abuses—a woefully pale phrase to describe the murder and mayhem during her time for the sole purpose of propping up her rule—are six of the Morong 43 who have charged Arroyo for illegal arrest and detention. The 43 were released last Christmas after the Aquino government ruled they had indeed been illegally arrested and detained. Rightfully, the six have not agreed to let bygones be bygones, as some bygones truly ought never be allowed to be gone by.

When I wrote about this earlier this year, I asked why the kin of the dead and disappeared during Arroyo’s time, if not indeed the surviving victims of attempted “salvaging” and fully-wrought torture, have not yet filed a class suit against Arroyo and/or her estate the way their counterparts during Marcos’ time did. I ask the same question again. Why haven’t the kin and friends of the political prisoners—and some of the slain journalists where the prime suspect is the military—banded together to hound Arroyo on earth for crimes that cry out to the heavens?

In fact I ask it of government. Why hasn’t government moved to file charges against Arroyo, Norberto Gonzales, Palparan and everyone who helped mount that cynical war employing cynical methods for the cynical end of keeping her in power?

You can’t make a dent against corruption, let alone stamp it off the face of the earth, without punishing the past rulers for corruption. And nothing comes more corrupt than the utterly vicious policy of wholesale murder. It corrupts everything. It corrupts freedom, it corrupts democracy, it corrupts the political way of life that we’ve known since Independence. It corrupts values, it corrupts institutions, it corrupts everything that we hold sacred in this country. That is the kind of corruption the past regime was guilty of, the same kind of corruption the Marcos regime was guilty of. That is the fountainhead of all the other kinds of corruption, including pillage, which it turns by comparison into penny-ante thievery.

That is the kind of corruption Arroyo’s military was guilty of as well. The new government’s effort to look into the byzantine ways by which the foot soldier’s boot money disappears into the generals’ pockets is laudable, but it misses the point. That is not the military’s real crime, that is not the extent of the military’s corruption. Or it is but a pale refraction of it. Its real crime is allowing itself to be used to thwart the will of the people, to train its guns not at those threatening to harm the people but at the people themselves. Its real crime is the willingness to commit murder and mayhem in exchange for power and pelf for a few generals. They did so during Marcos’ time, and they did so during Arroyo’s time.

You don’t need to go far to see the corrupt, corruptive, and corrupting influence of this, warping as it does the military’s sense of right and wrong. You see it in the way the PMA’s Guardians found Antonio Trillanes and not Angelo Reyes dishonorable, the former for blowing the whistle on the latter. You see it in the way the military sent Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Col. Alexander Balutan and not Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prison, the former for testifying that the latter stole the vote in Muslim Mindanao. You see it in the dead bodies buried in shallow graves across the country with only their parents and siblings to mourn them, the heads of the death squads that put them there caring nothing for it, caring only that their promotions have been slow in coming.

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By all means let’s fight corruption. But let’s start with not allowing people to get away with murder.

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TAGS: forced disappearances, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Graft and Corruption, Media killings, plunder, Political killings, United Church of Christ of the Philippines
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