Government misdeed, Human Rights

Murder She Wrought

Murder always has a reason and is never “senseless.” Otherwise, it’s just accident, “kamalasan,” or “divine providence.” And in the case of the massacre of 7 (unconfirmed reports have it at 10) peasants in Brgy. San Agustin, Palo, Leyte, it totally, perfectly makes sense.

The massacre happened a day after a rebel attack on a government military unit killed 9 soldiers and wounded scores in nearby Iloilo. Leyte and Iloilo form part of Eastern Visayas, the region where Jovito Palparan (henceforth called The Butcher) used to hold sway.

It’s only one of many incidents in a day of the military’s work: less than 24 hours before, in Nueva Ecija (one of the provinces where The Butcher now holds sway), the bodies of Danilo Suteña and a four-month pregnant Maribel Tablang, former student activists, were found weeks after witnesses saw them being forcibly taken by suspected soldiers.

If we round up news within the past two weeks, we will find more of these: On November 7, assailants shot Jose Ducalang, coordinator of Bayan Muna in Ormoc, Leyte. On November 13, Bienvenido Bajado, for vice mayor of Maydolong, Eastern Samar (again, Eastern Visayas) and chair of the Bayan Muna local chapter, was shot and killed. On November 18, businessman and Bayan Muna-Sorsogon chair Ricardo Uy was shot in his ricemill. Two days ago, Rommel Arcilla of Bayan-Pampanga was shot in front of his wife and 7-year-old son.

Since January this year, there have been 128 murders of activists so far, according to Karapatan. Which means, since January (327 days) an activist is killed every 2 1/2 days. The government declares most of these cases to be “isolated incidents,” one “unrelated” to the other. Malacañang profusely denies any systematic campaign of killing activists, and stops short of calling these incidents sad accidents or mere bad fortune befalling its critics.

Yet the murders make perfect sense. President Arroyo stands to benefit the most with the total annihilation of those pesky activists.

Malacañang’s recent statement on the Palo massacre perfectly captures the government’s motives in its murderous campaign. Arroyo, through Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, applauded the massacre, parroting the military line that the victims were rebel combatants. Its press release stated thus:

“‘Our security forces have been doing a good job as far as the counter-insurgency campaign is concerned, while the NPA is now heavily leaning on terror tactics,’ [Bunye] said…[He] added that the military stands on high operational and moral ground and the insurgents are on the run…Yesterday, the President ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to launch offensive operations against the rebels in retaliation of NPA attacks (sic) which have claimed the lives of several soldiers.”

Arroyo sees the Palo massacre of unarmed peasants as a “retaliation” to rebel attacks. Without officially declaring the political killings as Palace-sanctioned, one sees through the veneer of her convoluted statements that the very rationale of killing unarmed activists is to crush armed insurgency.

That these activists are unarmed matters little to this presidency. In their militant, unarmed actions, they have propagated the overthrow of the government, the status quo, the ruling system, and they deserve to die.

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