Bayan condemns in the strongest terms the extrajudcial killing of peasant leader Rene “Toto” Quirante of Negros Oriental. According to human rights groups, he is the 14th victim killed under the nearly 100-day old Aquino administration. This means that on the average, one victim is killed every week since Aquino took power.
The fact that these killings continue shows that the Aquino government is not doing enough to stop them. Aquino’s boast that 50% of the extrajudicial killings under his term have been solved is a hollow and misleading claim.
The number of victims has increased and no government action has proven to deter the perpetrators. The 50% claim also conveniently glosses over the hundreds of victims under the previous fascist Arroyo regime that remain unresolved.
Why do the killings continue?
1. The state policy for extrajudicial killings and the targeting of activists continues. This policy is embodied in the counter-insurgency program known as Oplan Bantay Laya. Legal organizations and unarmed activists are still considered targets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Activists are still considered ‘enemies of the state’. This has not changed and there have been many alarming accounts from various provinces on on the harassment and demonization of legal activists. The AFP continues to deny any responsibility despite overwhelming proof and widespread belief that they are involved. A policy from the preivious regime exists. Aquino cannot solve the problem if he does not recognize this basic fact that has been articulated by many rights advocates, including foreign observers and groups. Aquino has gone on record to deny that a policy did exist.
2. No high-ranking official, military or civilian, has been made to account for the killings. Hardly any of the perpetrators have faced conviction for the hundreds of deaths during the past nine years. This has contributed to the culture of impunity within the AFP. A study by human rights lawyer Atty. Al Parreno shows that from 2001-2010, only 1.05% of a more than 300 cases resulted in the conviction of the perpetrators. The Aquino government does not seem to be doing anything to change this dismal trend. Justice remains elusive.
Aquino must rein in his generals, abandon the US-directed counter-insurgency program Bantay Laya and create the mechanisms needed to prosecute the perpetrators, both from the past and present regimes. We support the proposal for the formation of a dedicated team of prosecutors that will address the problem of extrajudicial kilings. But more than this, it is the state-sponsored counter-insurgency policy that needs to end. The State’s failure to act on the killings will mean that the blood will be on Aquino’s hands as well. ###
P.S. – During the first two weeks of November 2010, two more activists were killed: Caloy Rodriguez, a government employee and union leader in Laguna and peasant leader Ireneo Rodriguez of Batangas.