Thursday, August 10, 2006

Police State?

Abadilla 5 and Kuratong Baleleng 11 are aging justice issues on the verge of oblivion. Abadilla 5 is the story of 5 men conveniently picked up as fall guys in order to solve the murder of Colonel Rolando Abadilla ten years ago. The late Senator Robert Barbers who was then Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government promised his boss, President Fidel Ramos that within forty eight hours he will solve the crime. He did just that and produced 5 men who up to now are languishing in jail.

Some time later, eleven men who were suspected members of a notorious criminal syndicate known as the “Kuratong Baleleng” were arrested with millions of US dollars in their possession. Shortly after their arrest these men were all found dead hand-cuffed in a reported shoot-out with elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP). If there was a shoot out, both sides should have suffered some form of injury or other. But as the story went, the “Kuratong Baleleng” men were all dead, no police were injured and mysteriously the US Dollars missing.

At that time now Senator Panfilo Lacson was the Chief PNP.
Persistent talks were also linking him to the “Kuratong Baleleng” which conducted very lucrative criminal activities from drugs to kidnap for ransom. A case had been filed against Lacson and his men. To this day, both the Abadilla 5 and “Kuratong Baleleng” cases remain unresolved. Aside from the fact of ordinary citizens being vulnerable to a problematic justice system, there is the tragic irony of a police force as perpetrators instead of preventers of crime.

Senator Jamby Madrigal recently reported to Mabuhay that the killings involving police and military personnel have become very serious. In the combined fashions of rub-out and fall guys, activists, journalists, peasant leaders and innocent civilians are falling down one after another like domino chips. Madrigal recounts how recently in Lopez, Quezon, a farmer who has just bartered his day’s catch of snails for some rice was shot at the back. Later that day, it was reported that another suspected NPA had been caught and in the usual way “during a shoot out”.

In these far-flung areas where the local population and the insurgents are a perfect blend, extra-judicial and arbitrary killings by both police and military personnel have become usual and ordinary. Unfortunately, the same innocent farmers can also be victims of similar atrocities perpetrated by the New Peoples’s Army whose own brand of justice eliminates so-called “informers”, traitors and obstacles to the revolution.

Some months ago, Senator Madrigal also visited Utrecht to discuss the peace process with exiled leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Madrigal came under heavy criticism from the Arroyo Administration who accused her of pre-empting future moves of the Government and likewise compromising the peace process. Madrigal explains that the Senate is not an outsider but a crucial participant in anything of national concern.

Recently, President Arroyo gave a two-year deadline to end the communist insurgency. She even mentioned her champion General Jovito Palparan in her State of the Nation Address last July 24, 2006 and gave him a standing ovation. General Palparan was provincial commander of the PNP in Mindoro where several unsolved murders of peasant leaders took place under his watch. Now he is provincial commander of Central Luzon where he continues to be hounded by the specter of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings.

While human rights advocates denounce the more than 700 killings in the last five years of the Arroyo administration and prominent individuals like Madrigal make a pitch for the peace process, Arroyo singles out and applauds Palparan as one of her anointed ones. Could this well be an indication of where we are going? A frightening scenario of more extrajudicial and arbitrary killings and worst, the murder of the peace process itself!

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
August 10, 2006


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