Courts so slow on human rights abuse cases, abet impunity
Less than two years remain of the P-Noy presidency, and Secretary Leila de Lima has been with the Department of Justice for over four years.
When she was appointed justice secretary, picked out from the Commission on Human Rights where she was serving as chair, we had hoped that human rights cases would move forward, despite the immense systemic and structural obstacles in the country’s justice system. But with the passing of time, we, human rights violations victims, our families and supporters, saw our hopes diminished. And now we feel extremely disappointed, if not righteously outraged, over the slow progress of human rights cases.
In the case of the two missing UP students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, we now dread the possibility that retired general Jovito Palparan Jr. will escape accountability. Various groups and individuals, both here and abroad, opposed Palparan’s transfer to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, but the public prosecutors were clearly instructed not to support the private prosecutors in their motion to transfer Palparan to a regular jail facility. Without support from the DOJ prosecutors, the court denied the motion last Oct. 20.
We are appalled and indignant that the DOJ has assumed the role of protecting Palparan by refusing to support the just demand of the mothers of Sherlyn and Karen. This clearly shows the bias of the Aquino administration in a very important issue of justice—which demands that no special treatment be accorded, especially to those accused of heinous crimes.
We likewise lament the slow progress of other human rights cases, despite the task force President Aquino formed through Administrative
Order No. 35. Among these cases are:
- a) The killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Datu Jimmy Liguyon, and town councilor Fernando Baldomero;
- b) The massacre of botanist Prof. Leonard Co and his companions Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo, and of antimining activist Juvy Capion and sons Jordan and John Mark;
- c) The civil case filed by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to make former president Gloria Arroyo accountable for human rights violations;
- d) The murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente and Catholic priest Cecilio Lucero;
- e) The torture and filing of trumped-up charges against the “Morong 43” health workers.
Under President Aquino, the human rights situation remains worrisome, to say the least. Political killings go on as the President himself implements his own version of a counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, that abets more human rights violations and the culture of impunity, and therefore is no better than his predecessor’s Oplan Bantay Laya.
We are thus constrained to express our collective frustration and indignation over the dismal state of human rights in our country. We write for the countless victims who have not achieved justice, much less attention from the current administration.
We call on the Aquino administration to urgently and decisively—while there is still enough time—address these issues which we have raised in previous dialogues with DOJ officials.
—CONCEPCION EMPEÑO, ERLINDA CADAPAN, GLENDA CO, ORLY MARCELLANA, REV. FR. REX RB. REYES JR., SATUR OCAMPO with 18 OTHER SIGNATORIES c/o End Impunity Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org
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