The statements of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon reveal that the extrajudicial killings of activists are directed, abetted and tolerated from the highest ranks within the military.
Up to now Esperon has remained unremorseful for the murder of hundreds of unarmed activists. His bullheadedness sends the message to the troops that killing activist is alright because the top brass will defend them no matter what.
- Esperon refuses to acknowledge the findings of the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings that the military is the principal suspect in the killings of activists. Esperon even refuses to heed the findings of the government-created Melo Commission which finds retired Gen. Palparan as responsible for many of the activist deaths by virtue of the principle of command responsibility. Everyone but Esperon believes that the military is involved in the killings.
- The 20-year old video of an interview of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison released by Esperon is a desperate and cheap attempt to bolster the military’s theory that the legal activists being killed are members of communist front organizations. The statements of Sison are maliciously taken out of their original context wherein Prof. Sison merely stated the known fact that the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and other organizations are part of the legal democratic forces for national democracy. Esperon wishes us to believe that this is incontrovertible proof that Bayan is a communist front organization. This cheap gimmick wasn’t even dignified by the credible investigating panel of UN rapporteur Philip Alston.
- The release of the video is timed to counter the findings of UN rapporteur Alston on the involvement of the military in the killings. It merely wishes to draw attention away from the atrocities committed by the military against legal activists. It implicitly justifies the killings of activists by demonizing the victims as legal communists. Front or not, the military has not right to kill unarmed activists.
- The “communist front” label is a necessary component of the “NPA purge” theory. Esperon calls us legal communists so he can blame the NPA for the killings as part of an alleged purge. Esperon refuses to give up the NPA purge theory even if this has been rejected by UN’s Alston and even by the Melo Commission. Without the NPA purge theory, the blame for the killings falls squarely on the military and their commander-in-chief. Not long ago, the PNP’s Task Force Usig and Malacanang also propagated this purge theory. The AFP, PNP and Malacanang have fallen flat on their faces when even the Melo Commission rejected the purge angle in the killings. Alston in particular has dismissed as a fabrication the so-called “captured documents” presented by the AFP, stating that these cannot be considered evidence of a purge.
- The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) mentioned by Prof. Sison in the video is a legal alliance of progressive organizations (not a partylist group as some may have mistaken). Bayan was established in 1985, at the height of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. Bayan also enjoys legal standing before the Supreme Court on a number of issues like the Visiting Forces Agreement, the calibrated preemptive response and the people’s initiative. Bayan is also recognized internationally for its leadership in the people’s struggle in the Philippines . BAYAN is distinct and different from the partylist organizations such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party and Anakpawis which engage in the parliamentary arena and were established much later than BAYAN. Many of the victims of extrajudicial killings are affiliates of Bayan which also works with partylist groups who have also been villified by the Arroyo regime.