Freedom of religion
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
POPE Benedict has
decided to make religious freedom as the theme of next year’s World
Day of Peace. I find this development very interesting and most
relevant. The Pope is quite direct on this. Religious freedom fosters
peace, he says. It does not undermine peace, much less, destroy it.
In the communiqué that
announced this papal decision. It is mentioned that "in many parts of
the world there exist various forms of restrictions or denials of
religious freedom, from discrimination and marginalization based on
religion, to acts of violence against religious minorities.”
What I know is that
lately, there had been threats and open attacks on this most
fundamental aspect of our freedom. Religious persecutions have surged
in India, Indonesia, China and in many other countries. Priests and
other Church workers have been killed, churches burned, etc.
In France, students at
public schools cannot wear head scarves and large crucifixes. The
European Court of Human Rights has prohibited crucifixes from walls of
In the US, there seems
to be drift to reduce freedom of religion to mere freedom of worship.
That means religion is relegated to the private life of individuals,
denying it public expression. This can be observed in the recent
speeches of President Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton.
Religious freedom is
the freedom of all freedoms. It’s freedom at its core. It’s the
freedom that touches on the most basic and deepest need of man – to
believe or not to believe in God or simply in ourselves in whatever
frame of mind we can have.
From here spring all
the other aspects of freedom – our understanding of human rights,
freedom of expression, etc. This freedom of religion simply has to be
respected, fostered and defended.
Obviously, the other
part of this matter is that religious freedom is also the most
delicate aspect of freedom. It can be the most mysterious, the most
elusive in terms of understanding it and living it.
But in spite of this
character, or rather because of it, we should be unrelenting in our
pursuit to really know it and live it. We can never say enough of this
effort, choosing to ignore the question for the false reason of
avoiding so-called unnecessary trouble.
This excuse is the one
offered by President Obama and most likely by Mrs. Clinton herself in
talking about freedom of worship more than freedom of religion.
Obviously it has its valid point. That’s always the nature of an
excuse. It offers a valid point, but it can miss the more crucial part
of an issue.
In this case of the
freedom of religion, while everything has to be done to avoid public
disorder and conflict in order to uphold religious freedom, it should
never be reduced simply as a strictly private, personal affair of
freedom of worship.
We have to find a way
where the true nature of religious freedom can really be seen and
appreciated, one that obviously will avoid public disorder and
conflict. Thus, the Pope’s message for next year’s World Day of Peace
can be most helpful.
In that message, the
Pope highlights the basis for freedom of religion. And this is nothing
other than the equal and inherent dignity of man. Here are some
relevant words of that communique which I think are worth reflecting
¨This notion of
religious freedom offers us a fundamental criterion for discerning the
phenomenon of religion and its manifestations. It necessarily rejects
the ´religiosity´ of fundamentalism, and the manipulation and the
instrumentalization of the truth and of the truth of man.
distortions are opposed to the dignity of man and to the search for
truth, they cannot be considered as religious freedom.
¨Rather, an authentic
notion of religious freedom offers a profound vision of this
fundamental human right, one which broadens the horizons of
´humanity,´ and ´freedom´ of man, allowing for the establishment of
deep relationship with oneself, with the other and with the world.¨
We may have to go
through these words slowly. It will be an effort that will be truly
worthwhile, since it would bring us to the true nature of religious
freedom that is now badly understood, let alone, lived.
We have to be wary of
the caricatures presented often in the media. They come as a result of
some dangerous twists to accommodate perhaps some practical reasons.
But such distortions will ultimately destroy the substance of
We may have to go
slow but in the right track, rather than go fast but out of track.
Media focusing on Taft
come its July 24-25 fiesta
By CHITO DELA TORRE, email@example.com
Taft, Eastern Samar
will be the launching pad for the first major activity of the newly
organized media group in Region VIII after this group’s founding
officers are sworn into office during the vespera of that town come
July 24, 2010 evening by Immigration commissioner Marcelino “Nonoy”
Chicano Libanan. The following day, its coverage of the vesper and
fiesta events would be released to the public, almost simultaneous to
a press conference with that town’s elected officials and perhaps some
provincial officials who may be visiting Taft on that day.
Plans for that affair
and the choice of Taft were mulled during the second organizational
meeting of this newest media group that originally adopted the name,
TAMESDA, or Tacloban Media for Eastern Samar Development and Action.
On July 18 early evening, the group voted to rename itself as the RETA,
acronym for Region Eight Tri-Media Association.
officers, as of this writing, are the following: Justenry Mendoza
Lagrimas - president, Rey Ledesma - vice-president, Rowel Amazona -
secretary, Archie Globio - business manager, Byron Alcoba - chairman
of the board of directors, Ben Veridiano and Brian Azura as board
directors, and Chito Deloria Dela Torre - treasurer of the association
and secretary of the board.
Originally, the group
was formed to be exclusively committed to help in the development of
Eastern Samar. Since the members discovered that their group’s
capabilities could also be tapped by other provinces and cities in
Region VIII, they have decided to adopt an association’s name that at
the same time bespeaks of its regional base. However, they have
agreed to initially focus on
Eastern Samar province, its 21 towns and the city of
Borongan, and their
It was in Taft that
the Immigration commissioner completed his primary education (at Taft
central elementary school) as a consistent honor student. Although he
was born in Quezon City (he will be 47 come September 20), Taft is his
hometown. Taft today, as it had been in many years past, is proud to
have him as her son. Well, he graduated gold medalist from the
Seminario de Jesus Nazareno in Borongan, was a Leyte-Samar diocesan
scholar and 100 per cent academic scholar of the Divine Word
University until the university conferred him with the degree of
Bachelor of Laws, passed the Bar examinations in 1988, was elected
congressman for three consecutive terms for the lone district of
Eastern Samar which he first served in his capacity as senior
(although the youngest, elected at age 24) board member and then as
its vice-governor. He was cited as most outstanding congressman for
four consecutive years (2001-2004). In May 2007, he was appointed as
Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration. He has other
accomplishments and achievements, that is why, not only Eastern Samar
but the entire Waray region and the whole
are proud of him.
As for Taft, a Pacific
Ocean-facing town, has through the years been in the limelight as
among the region’s tourist destinations. Among its natural
attractions is a beach coast that can be best enjoyed through the
amenities made available by the now famous Dangkalan Pacific Beach
Resort, which Catbalogan-based tourist guide and cave explorer Joni
Abesamis Bonifacio describes as “a little paradise, a perfect place
for camping with mini forest and park for backpackers, family, friends
or lovers on a leisure trip”. The beach resort itself, says Joni, is
an oceanfront resort located on miles of golden fine sand facing the
Pacific Ocean, and “facing the Makati Island, a world class surf
Taft can be visited
through the internet. Find http://www.batch2006.com/visit_taft.htm to
view pictures of the Loop-D-Loop Bridge and other sites and sights in
the town, as well as for what website visitors say, like these ones:
“Ay salamat nga damo
paka abre ko dama hin nga site, sugad hin mahidlaw na ha taft balitaw,
bisan kun sugad aton bungto mahal ko pa iton. tnx, han akon ka parag
silhig ha may singbahan na practise ako. Pagkadi ko canada asya la
gihapon paragsilhig. An ginkaibahan la kay medyo high tech na he he he
he. balitaw regards nala iyo tanan dida ha taft, maupay nla nga patron
(advance) ha iyo nga tanan. mis u mis u. . . .´ - boyet cherreguine |
firstname.lastname@example.org | brgy.2,taft, eastern samar | grande prierie,
June 23, 2010
at 04:38:54 AM PST
“Kamahidlaw na maupay
na it pagule hen marisyo pag may okasyon urog na et patron.” -
email@example.com. , Brgy.# Danao, Taft E. Samar | Q.C.,
November 17, 2009 at 01:57:44 AM.
“(A)s always, Taft is
the most beautiful place I've ever been it is the paradise of eastern
samar because or its wonders Taft will be the most beautiful of all
beautiful and it is the most diverse place to be develop and invest
because of its location as the gateway to western samar - jim jim |
firstname.lastname@example.org | brgy.2 taft, eastern samar | quezon city
Saturday, August 15, 2009 at 06:39:13 AM.
HAPPY FIESTA to all
Taft officials and constituents on July 24-25, 2010!
No tall order: those
By CHITO DELA TORRE, email@example.com
"...the New People’s Army... had always been able to prove that it
could not be wiped out."
Warays should welcome
calls for investigation to the reasons that forced the military during
the period of from 2006 to 2009 to consistently proclaim, pursuant to
a goal pronounced by Gloria Arroyo herself as then president, to the
whole nation and the whole world that it can crush and put an end to
insurgency in the Philippines.
Of course, when those
proclamations were being made, one undying unit of the insurgent group
(against which the military declared war when talks to end hostilities
failed during the presidency of Fidel Ramos) always kept laughing, and
That group was the New
People’s Army, the armed rebels’ unit of the Communist Party of the
Philippines that the combined forces of the government continued to
fail to defeat during the mighty Marcos regime, during the next 20
years, and during the almost 10 years of Arroyo, had always been able
to prove that it could not be wiped out.
being asked today will also look into how much exactly did the
military receive from out of the people’s money, and maybe even from
foreign debts and foreign donors, to crush and end insurgency. The
calls, from various concerned groups and some legislators, want to see
the logic which served as basis for those proclamations and
tremendously huge funding. It has seemed, after all, that that logic
never existed and that the bases and reasons advanced by Arroyo and
the military did not produce deaths to the rebels and the insurgency
itself. As the probe may begin soon, examiners should also dig into
the truths of the military’s claim that only about 1,000 more active
and armed rebels are on the loose, and then force the military to name
and establish the locations of these ubiquitous rebels. It will not
be enough that taxpayers and the very people whom the military itself
says it is sworn to protect and defend is citing numbers of its
enemies and numbers of its overrun enemy lairs. The enemies
themselves should be named and fully described in a published and
publicly posted document. The enemy lairs should also handled
Why this public
responsibility revelation was not being done by the military before
the current Aquino Administration should be interestingly investigated
as well. Imagine, here is a country called the Philippines whose
denizens are being claimed to be protected and defended but who do not
even know who are those against whom their protection and defense is
pressed for and must be a sworn-to duty.
There should likewise
be an accounting demanded, why the military inveterately reported that
the discovery of enemy camps or the presence of armed rebels had to be
attributed to the people themselves, usually in the rural and almost
uninhabited sections in often mountainous areas. The government needs
to get that information out to the public so that the people would
know that the military actually failed heavily in its intelligence and
counter-intelligence, or espionage, activities. There actually are
other things that the military should be doing in order to pinpoint
exact locations of enemies and their hideouts or camps, but which it
does not do. That embarrassing failure is always embarrassingly cured
by the participation of ordinary, often unschooled, citizens in
barrios and sitios who have no military training and are not receiving
any salary as does every soldier. In technical military sense, it is
not acceptable to claim that information or tips volunteered by
private citizens is a product of effective military intelligence
strategy. That claim is self-defeating and an excusable denial of the
military’s foible – the military’s quirk that is almost tantamount to
a dereliction of duty.
The investigations – I
hope there will be a series of intensive, no-holds barred probes – may
build scrutinizing arteries to where intelligence funds have been
going for during the past many years until an Oakwood mutiny made a
senator and an Ampatuan massacre rocked the whole world.
Aquino is in the right track. He has vowed to provide the military –
and the police – with more funds, more men, and more better arms. In
the case of the military, he has seen that as an urgent need in order
to enable the government’s armed forces to win in the government’s ---
not the military’s --- war against insurgency and truly end insurgency
and its shadows. PNoy doesn’t like the military lying to the Filipino
people. He wants it to tell the people that its soldiers couldn’t yet
win and that they can’t yet end the war, and that it was not honest in
its claims of minuscule victories in the past when in fact it was only
chipping off a tip of an iceberg, in a manner of talking.
General Ricardo David is the right officer and gentleman to lead the
entire military towards this objective of President Aquino. He may
have been a silent witness of the excesses of military officers in the
past but certainly he is committed to enforce the command of his
commander-in-chief to make the military and all its personnel at par
with the highest expectations of the New Government and the wishes of
the Filipino people. The conduct of investigations, with his fullest
support and cooperation, in addition to his participation, apart from
what he may be initiating by himself as the most powerful armed
officer in the Philippines, will vigorously, albeit strenuously, guide
his commitment which, by its quintessence, is a valorously noble step
towards professionalizing the military service.
While in the
meantime there will be no demotions in rank, for now, as pronounced by
the staff of AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. David, it will also be of
help the investigative work if no promotions are at the same time
instituted unless they are a necessary corrective measure, such as the
need to change division and brigade commanders, or in due recognition
of exemplary leadership and accomplishments that had significantly
contributed to community development, in addition to true peace and
galvanization from threats to such development. When COS David shall
have accomplished that, naturally, Pres. Aquino would be happier. The
President of the Republic of the Philippines will be comfortable with
the thought that finally this country and its people has a sensitive,
sensible, responsive, fair, parsimonious, and honest military.
Nicart – the
pro-farmer practical governor
By CHITO DELA TORRE
Until I glued my ears
to almost hushed small group conversations at the Capitol in Borongan
City, I didn’t know who the people were referring to by the
ascriptions “Bungot” and “Aklon” which I had been hearing since past 9
a.m. of June 30 up to the first press conference of the new provincial
administration in Eastern Samar neared its start at past 2 p.m..
At first, I thought
every mention of Bungot and Aklon referred to someone in
a legend which only the Estehanons know, rather only during the past
decade that I had missed the sweet and sometimes intoxicating company
of my closest friends in that province that lies opposite of America
while kissing the vast and wavy Pacific Ocean. Thus, I remembered my
literary writer, Morris Anacta Baquilod, a Boronganon who was our
editor-in-chief during our college days at Southwestern University in
Cebu City and who resigned ahead of me from the Department of Public
Information to help in the crusade for genuine democracy, and other
good writers in that province with whom I enjoyed journalism work
during the martial law days and until the post-People Power Revolution
months when we understood time had come to start writing more about
the Waray-Waray region and especially on the need for the national
government to give now its attention to the seemingly abandoned island
of Samar. Byron Bugtas, who would later on become station manager of
Radyo Ng Bayan DYES, although often serious in his job, kept our
groups zestful with his dramatized tales and self-composed songs which
we all loved to listen to.
Yes, I did imagine
that because the Waray term “bungot” means beard or moustache, it
referred to a Judas or Jesus who were depicted as bearded. As for “Aklon”,
I did recall that Waray versions of Robinhood were sometimes called “Aklon”.
Then, after I had
talked for a while with my first cousin Cornelio Adel, former
vice-mayor of Taft, Eastern Samar’s town that is popular for its “Loop
the loop” road (forming almost the figure “8”), I started laughing.
Like having succeeded getting out of a maze, I said “eureka!” – Greek
for “I’ve found it!”, corrupted jocosely by Filipino nerds, as it had
been with the jejemon jejune talk, into “yari ka!” I got my jejunal
clarification off my jejunum.
In his inaugural
address, governor Conrado Nicart Jr. mentioned the term “bungot”
twice, and to my mind it was a metaphor for an old, bearded man who
always insisted on what is right. “Kontra ni Bungot it malimbong,
malupot, makawat ug hakog” and “Para kan Bungot, immoral an pagsingabot hin gahum, immoral an
pagriko tikang han pag-malun-makon han pondo, nga para unta han mas
mamadamo nga tawo.” These both engendered a wild applause from the
nearly 1,000 people who witnessed his oath-taking and installation as
their new governor.
He was referring to
himself, I realized hours later.
The appellation must
have been attributed to his being unshaven up to his chin. His grey
beard, though, matched with his partly greyish hair that almost looked
shaggy but yet made him look even younger than the senior citizen in
the media group of more than 20 (6 from Tacloban City) that covered
the inaugural ceremony.
In his brief message
that came earlier than did “Bungot’s”, I thought vice-governor
Christopher “Sheen” Gonzales blundered twice when instead of saying
“governor Nicart”, he mentioned “governor Aklon”! I was surprised why
the audience didn’t boo him. I said to myself, it was impossible for
everyone not to have noticed the wrong mention of the name of the new
governor. This can’t happen, I continued, shaking my head. The old
woman seated before me at the back row of the tent-covered Capitol
ground kept staring at me each time I disbelievingly interjected “oww!”
This young and handsome second highest official of the province was
expressing his preference for his own governor, I thought. But no!
My notebook listed Sheen’s gubernatorial candidate was Andres A. Yu,
his tandem from the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, whom Nicart walloped miserably
with a downgrading win of 6,000 extra votes. If Andres were the
“governor Aklon” enunciated by Sheen, why could Sheen afford to commit
that mistake? I asked myself. He could not have referred to
ex-governor Ben Evardone who was simply “Ben”. So, who was this
At the other end of
the oval coco-lumber conference table of the sangguniang panlungsod,
Sheen once again enunciated “governor Aklon”. I smiled. I already
knew he was addressing Nicart and the governor’s other alias is “Aklon”.
And yes, the beard and
the Robinhood literary attribution literally distinguished Gov. Nicart,
who had served as barangay kapitan, Liga president, and mayor for 16
years and vice-mayor for one term in the town of
in Eastern Samar. I would soon start learning how the heart of this
former constabulary-police officer ached and bled for the poor and
ignored Samarnons. In his 5-agenda message, he made as number one
priority the improvement of agricultural productivity to at least
alleviate poverty by adding some more irrigated rice land hectarage to
the province’s a little over 2,000 hectares of existing irrigated
lands in order to increase the volume of rice harvests and stop the
practice of buying rice at high prices from outside Eastern Samar.
His belief: “...kadak-an nga problema han kapobrehan in masosolbar
kun supesyente and produkto nga pagkaon tikang ha uma.”
He said that even as
he is enlisting the full support on this of the Capitol and other
provincial government employees, he is also appealing to the
sangguniang panlalawigan to help him realize this priority. This guy
is going to the basics to reach his very high goal: frequently talk
and walk with the actual farmers right at their farms, “dire ha usa
nga aircon nga opisina, nga kinurtinahan”.
His second top
priority – infrastructure projects, which he said the people will
appreciate after he shall have completed his 3-year term as governor.
“Pipili-on ta an kontraktor nga maaram mag-templa han kadamo han baras
ug semento. Aton panginanohon nga, kun an proyekto kalsada, aton
igkakalsada, dire sungkaan ha kalsada, kun irigasyon an proyekto,
tumanon nga irigasyon, dire mansion, ngan kun medisina an papaliton,
asya ta paliton, dire baybayon.
His third priority –
much improved provincial hospital services, which the patient would
appreciate by the end of his term as governor. The patient, he said,
“dire na mapalit han talagudti nga higamit, gapas, dagum, plaster ngan
bisan la medicol. He emphasized that he was stringently condemning
the insensitivity to poverty or absence of sympathy for the poor.
He said he would also
give equal treatment to all the 22 towns and 1 city that make up
Eastern Samar. “Laumi niyo nga papreho la it ak paghatag hin grasya,
kun mayda man, waray ko mamayporayon, bisan kun wara ak pagdaog dit ha
iyo, kay it politika niyan la it ngin panahon hit karampanya, katapos
hit, mamaupay ko la kun magsasarangkay la kita.”
Gov. Nicart’s fifth
priority is to launch the start of renewal thru a new brand of
leadership. Yet he has appealed that early for everyone’s
cooperation, citing as an analogy the lesson from the flight of geese
in “V” formation. “Kun sugad la daw kita nga mga tawo, mas
maintindihan ta, nga kun nagkakaurusa la kunjta hin usa nga direksyon
ug tinguha, diin ginbububligan an problem ug mabug-at nga trabaho, mas
madagmit hingadtoan an kaupayan.
In concluding his
message, the new governor pledged “a government that will be peaceful
and drug-free, maybe not in the next three years, maybe in the next
three months.” He also promised to crack down officials who abuse the
environment and take advantage and exploit the poor, the weak and the
hungry, even in my own little way”.
His had been a
down-to-earth but loaded message, one that even the unschooled could
easily understand and recall.
He also sounded that
way when he answered questions during the press conference, especially
when he declared his response to what every well-meaning Estehanon has
been complaining about for years, which is to remove all signages that
proclaim that a project is named credited to a particular official,
because in his own time, he would not also allow his name to be shown
for a similar false claim. For him, every project funded from out of
the people’s money is a project of the people, a duty performed by the
public servant who is bound to respond to the people’s needs.
I liked all that I
heard from you. Damo nga salamat, governor Nicart! I wish you good
luck. God be with you in your crusade. I am convinced that you will
do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you
can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the
people. You can as long as you ever can.
Beware of newspeak
By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
ACCORDING to my
dictionary, newspeak is a language invented by George Orwell in his
book, 1984, that portrays a horrible world scenario of people
brainwashed and controlled. Newspeak is “a deliberately ambiguous and
contradictory language used to mislead and manipulate the people.”
We have to be wary of
its existence, because it is actually present in today’s world. It in
fact is proliferating, thanks to an ongoing ideological warfare that
is employing subtle tricks and traps, victimizing simple people.
It’s a language that
deftly mixes truths and untruths, and cleverly exploits a window of
acceptable concepts and beliefs to introduce false and harmful ideas.
It’s like a Trojan horse, a most cunning exercise in hypocrisy and
It must come from the
devil, because our Christian faith considers him as the “father of
lies” (Jn 8,44), and newspeak in its core is actually a lie,
irrespective of the many beautiful and true things it also emits.
Its pedigree betrays a
complicated mix of isms—atheism, agnosticism, deism, relativism,
socialism, etc. Common among them is the element of making man, us,
not God, as the ultimate source of truth, the final arbiter of good
In the first place,
the agents of newspeak laugh at any mention of a possibility of God’s
existence or of his providence in our affairs. They just can’t believe
that. They are either awkward or hostile toward that truth. They only
believe in themselves and their brilliant ideas.
It can originate and
thrive in an environment described in
second letter to Timothy:
“There will come a
time when they will not endure the sound doctrine, but having itching
ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their own
lusts, and they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn
aside rather to fables.” (4,3-4)
In this current debate
about reproductive health and sex ed in public schools, for example, I
cannot help but think of this tricky phenomenon of newspeak.
We are regaled with
many good and true things about them, but we have to look closely at
the fine print, because it’s there where the lies and dangers are
hidden. Its practitioners have mastered the darker side of the art of
Whenever I read their
statements, I find myself also agreeing with many of what they say,
and even praise them for some of their views. It’s just that they do
not say everything, and where they think they would go against truth
and faith, they become evasive and sly.
I have no quarrel with
the need for everyone to attain reproductive health and have sex ed.
It’s in what is meant by these ideals, and how they are to be
implemented where I seriously beg to disagree.
In this often
unnoticed level, one can readily see the remaking of the concepts of
morality, of faith and religion, of human progress and development,
etc. It’s a hideous activity.
Sad to say, newspeak
is now widely used by politicians and pundits, social pacesetters and
cultural gurus, and even religious leaders who are actually referred
to as false teachers in the gospel. We need to be most discerning,
helping one another develop a keen sense of judgment.
Recently, I received
an email of a commentary regarding a speech of US State Secretary
Hillary Clinton. It talked about how Mrs. Clinton cleverly downgraded
religious freedom into freedom of worship in her effort to further the
cause of same-sex unions.
In short, Mrs. Clinton
waxed lyrical about religious freedom understood as freedom as worship
where one’s faith is kept private and personal only, with practically
no public and social dimension.
This is a clear
distortion of freedom, castrating the very core of freedom which is
religious freedom. It’s an understanding of freedom that is purely
political and ideological, man-made and artificial, lacking its
original foundation who is God.
It’s an understanding
of freedom that simply floats according to the fashion of the times.
It speaks the language of what is politically correct at the moment
with no reference to a universal, absolute truth. It simply is tied to
changing and relativistic criteria.
This understanding of
freedom confuses objectivity with subjectivity, and divorces right to
privacy from the common good and universal truth.
With that character,
freedom is prone to be exploited by the strong and the clever, the
lucky and the privileged, the healthy and the rich. Lady Justice here
does not wear a blindfold. She openly plays favorites.
We need to be wary
of the evils of newspeak.
Asian governments need to change
policing based on the use of torture
A Statement by the
Asian Human Rights Commission on the occasion of the UN International
Day in Support of Torture Victims - June 26, 2010
As the International
Day in Support of Victims of Torture is commemorated on the 26th June
the Asian governments need to face up to their failure to honour their
obligations to eliminate the use of torture in their countries. The
use of torture is endemic in Asia and the reason for this is that the
policing systems still use torture as the main method of investigation
into crime. The extent to which torture is used is scandalously high
and the time to stop it is clearly now.
Policing in many Asian
countries is still very cruel, primitive and also inefficient and
corrupt. The extent of the governments' failure is reflected in the
widespread use of torture and their unwillingness to deal with this
problem. The nature of the policing systems is very much linked to the
kind of political systems that still prevail in Asia. These political
systems have made possible the abuse of power and corruption and the
local policing systems are used as instruments to facilitate such
abuses and corruption.
The use of torture by
the police contributes to prevent the development of democratically
based political parties. Internal democracy within the parties is
prevented by powerful politicians who aspire to power more for
personal gain rather than in the service of any national objectives.
Internal forces of repression prevent a healthy competitive spirit
through which proper political leadership can emerge within these
parties. The ruling parties also use the police as an instrument to
suppress other political parties from emerging. In this manner the
internal democratic process is seriously disturbed by the use of
coercion in favour of a few powerful persons. As a result national
institutions, vital to ensuring accountability and transparency, are
prevented from being developed.
Bad policing based on
the constant use of torture and coercion contributes to violence
within societies. The chief beneficiaries of bad policing systems are
those engaged in organised crime. In many countries direct links are
visible between the police and the organised gangs. The emergence of
the underground forces disturbs the peace within society and
complaints of insecurity are constantly heard from most of the
The fear of the police
has so deepened in society that women openly complain that they will
not dare to go to a police station even if they have to face some
problems which requires the intervention of the police. The fear of
rape and sexual harassment by the police has developed to such an
extent that women in Asian societies openly express the view that the
police are a socially unfriendly agency. During the months of May and
June of this year the Asian Human Rights Commission interviewed women
from several Asian countries and they unanimously expressed the view
that policing in their countries has emerged as an agency which has a
negative influence on society.
Bad policing with
their power to use coercion and the manipulation of their powers of
arrest and detention has reached such levels that many societies
cannot make any progress towards democracy or rule of law without
first dealing with serious police reforms. Radical police reforms
remain the primary requirement of social stability and the prevention
Unfortunately the use
of propaganda relating to the elimination of terrorism has also been
used in order to further enhance the possibilities of the misuse of
police powers. Under the pretext of anti terrorism even the limited
achievement relating to the development of rule of law systems have
been undermined. Through extensive powers acquired by anti terrorism
laws the powers of arrest and detention are being misused in high
proportion. Such abuse is accompanied by extrajudicial killings, by
either death in custody or through forced disappearances. Serious
crimes are being committed in the name of anti terrorism and as a
result impunity has become widespread. The citizen is powerless under
Bad policing and abuse
of power through anti terrorism laws has become a major threat to the
independence of the judiciary. The judiciary in many countries is
powerless when investigations are subverted and when the law
enforcement agencies themselves engaged in serious crimes. Recent
studies show the manner in which even legal remedies like habeas
corpus actions have become ineffective in the face of massive
violations by law enforcement agencies.
A theory is now
gaining ground that the use of overwhelming power is the only solution
to terrorism. Sri Lanka's experience in the suppression of the LTTE is
now being used as a kind of model or example on how to deal with
terrorism. The safeguards developed to protect individual rights are
even being ridiculed as impractical or counterproductive. Ideological
support for the use of naked power and the justification for impunity
is being promoted.
All these tendencies
are only contributing to create insecurities in society and for
unscrupulous politicians to abuse power for their own purposes.
The Asian Human Rights
Commission calls on the societies of all Asian countries to take
serious note of this dangerous situation. In recent years civil
society organisations themselves have compromised with these negative
developments and as a result contributed to this situation. Today
civil society is challenged by these threatening developments and it
is time that civil society faced up to this challenge.
The elimination of
torture-based policing and all kinds of justifications for the
unscrupulous use of power need to be stopped. This is the issue that
needs to be reflected upon by civil society as well as the governments
on the occasion of the International Day in Support of Torture
Victims. Unless the negative developments mentioned above are
seriously dealt with the number of torture victims will only increase.
The Asia Human Rights Commission also calls upon the United Nations
and the international community to deal with this situation without
ambiguity and delay.
Kindly see the
statements by women of several Asian countries who have called for the
end of bad policing and the use of torture. These may be seen at: