Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

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Yellowing journalism

An invitation to a formal debate

Police torture video affirms police stations are 'torture chambers'

Freedom of religion under threat

Sex Ed a wedge issue

What’s wrong with sex education in schools?

What do YOUTHink?

Condoms a dead man walking

Manganese, Copper… and other questions

Movie making from Waray’s olden history should begin now





For the greed for money, corruption persists

October 28, 2010

Money was powerful last Monday.  It made the highest giver the much-sought for victory in the October 25, 2010 barangay elections.  It could have been powerless as to sway votes if it wasn’t given.

Of course, many did not join those who went to the house of Mr./Mrs. Punong Barangay Incumbent to receive between P100 and P500 that the re-electionist village chief was giving each voter who appeared in a list on which the recipient would affix “a” signature to vouchsafe that the cash election bribe was actually received.  Congressman/Congresswoman X/W, who gave at least P83,000 for every complete line-up of candidates for elective barangay positions, was actually not interested to look into that list, although he/she at first wanted to know why the incumbent first kagawad was not in the line-up submitted.

Kagawad candidates who gave P20 or P50 per voter did not, of course, reveal that the cash bribe came from X/W, although voters in their community knew there was much money to flood with.

Few, however, won without bribing voters.

Between these two dimensions, so clear are two lessons: first, if no politician would support any candidate with election money, no candidate would dare spend more than his or her own financial capability; and second, if not candidate would give out cash, no voter would ask for it.  In both lessons, elections could still push through, and winners could still be proclaimed.

Apart from this election offense that is known most popularly as vote-buying, another election offense was committed rather in a manner as if to insult the board of election tellers, the election laws, and democracy itself.  One candidate for kagawad used the line of voters as a strategy: each time she reached the BET’s table, she would not declare her intention to vote but would instead rejoin the new line from the tail-end, and repeat her condemnable act of asking voters in the line to vote for her or look through the window to find out what voters inside the voting precinct were writing on their ballots.

Hours before the election, non-resident registered voters dined and slept with a candidate whose family were prompted to render them “extra” service.  A few minutes to voting time, they walked to another candidate and received P300 each from the latter, then cast their votes.  By past 9 p.m., the P300-giver won by a large margin.

These were reports reaching the media, but the media could not do so much about them.

 * * * * * * * * * *

Media practitioners should beware of a media photographer who might mingle with them.  The subject recently threatened to castigate a media man taller and bigger than his size, after the latter reportedly released to the media audience an awkward thing that he did that displeased a government official.  This same guy is already known to show himself off as a toughie, and would sometimes bully media reporters by shouting to their scare.  Apparently, he has no respect for others and his wrongdoings tend to vitiate the passivity of true-bloodied media personnel in the Waray Region.  He is one who does not deserve to stay any minute longer in the private, much less the government, media.

Government and respectable private entities should also beware of this media photographer.  Often, without any courtesy and even without being invited, he just barges in to try to impress others that he already is SOMEBODY.

Indeed, there are bad eggs who fell into the media basket.

Less than half a decade ago, a media reporter wildly spread a false report that a fellow reporter was receiving cash from a lady governor.  That false feed besmirched the image of the media, particularly in the place where the victim reporter was performing his reportorial functions.  An upcoming newsman, in another instance, was forced to file a libel case against one reporter who created a lie that almost isolated the former as one among the enemy targets of the military.  The root cause of both instances had been BIG MONEY, which divides media personnel and deplorably and unfairly downgrades the personality of the innocent among them.

These are shades of a corrupt society.  Everyone should hope that the PNoy regime can cut this off even as it is crusading on a campaign promise to unveil the truths about institutionalized and minuscule corruption in the Philippines.





A broken and lawless nation – killing in front of families

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
October 27, 2010

When a country's protection mechanism is no longer capable of protecting its own people, its own system is deeply flawed; when a society can no longer protect the people in their community, the bond of fraternity that binds human civilization is broken; and when killings are done in front of families it illustrates the breakdown and separation, not only for families who lost their loved ones, but of the family as part of the society and the country.

It is an illusion, if it is not an absurdity for anyone to claim without fear and reservation, that there is protection and security for the people in the Philippines. It has become ordinary for killings to be carried out by policemen, the military and the paramilitary forces working for them; killing in broad daylight before witnesses in crowded public places and in front of the victim's family in their own homes. Hundreds, if not thousands of stories go unreported and this has been taking place in the country for many years now.

What is left is an imagery of the existence of a nation, it exists in name only. The nation's fundamental existence is to protect and uphold the interest of each and every Filipino, who are themselves part of a family; a family that is part of a community; a community that is part of a society; and a society that composes the nation. The functioning of the country's institutions, by virtue of reason, is an agreement by the people who have come together to protect their shared interest: humanity.

A system of justice was built and in the local context of the Philippines it is called the "Five pillars of the Criminal Justice System" (composed of the police, prosecution, judiciary, prisons and the community). The reason for its existence is not solely to protect and maintain the institutions; but for individuals who are part of this group of people--by birth, nationality or habitation--that is called the Philippines. All the Filipinos who compose this nation are subject to its rules. It is the protection and preservation of the rights of this individual and the group he is part of that is the reason for the existence of the system.

But when the system of justice no longer functions for the protection of each individual, but rather an exclusive small group of people who are part of these institutions; and to protect the institution that they work for, the purpose of its existence has lost its meaning. The institutions may still survive but not for the reason for which they were originally built, but only to protect the interests of the people who are part of the system. Those who protect these systems are the very people who themselves do not feel protected and secured; thus, being part of it gives them protection so they protect its status quo.

Therefore, the neglect and abandonment of the country's system is felt hard by people who are not within the system, but who were part of the original reason for its creation. But in reality, the system which they once had can no longer protect them unless they are within it. The system thrives not because it satisfies the individual or the group but rather because their physical existence justifies its need. An individual cannot create and subject himself to his own system and be a nation unto himself.

In a country where an individual could no longer protect himself, he cannot protect his family; a family who cannot protect its members, cannot protect the community where they belong; and a person, a family and a community that cannot protect itself cannot protect a Nation. A Nation that cannot protect its own citizens, their families and the community where they live cannot hope to protect the foreigners on its soil. It is a broken and lawless nation.

A system of justice can still continue to exist on paper, structure and appearance, but its existence is meaningless once it departs from its original role of being a protector, it becomes the very opposite of what it was supposed to be; that is the protector of those within the system, protecting those who are already protected; securing those who are already secured. This is the type system that each Filipino lives in daily in their own country. Unless there is a discussion and organic realization by those who are part of the system of the need for reform to reexamine their purpose, its existence remains an object of contempt.

The murders of Reynaldo Labrador of Davao City and Vicente Felisilda of Mawab, Compostela Valley, who were both executed in front of their families illustrates how broken and lawless the country has become. These cases are documented by a local human rights group, Karapatan.

Reynaldo Labrador: shot in front of his wife, children

Reynaldo was 39 years old, had 3 children and was a member of the Paquibato District Farmers Association (PADIFA), a local chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Philippine Peasant Movement. He was shot dead at 7:30 p.m. on September 3, 2010 in front of his wife, Leonisa and his daughters Reylon, 10; Raquel, 8; Jennifer, 4, at their home in Paquibato District, Davao City.

Labrador was already inside their home when two men, one of whom was identified as Berto Repe, a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), came looking for him. Cafgu is a paramilitary unit under the immediate control and command of the military. Repe is attached to the 69th Infantry Battalion of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade of the 10th Infantry Division Philippine Army (IDPA).

The two were met by Labrador's wife, Leonisa, as she was doing laundry outside their house. They told her that they were carrying documents for her husband to receive. When she offered to received them they insisted that they could only give the documents to her husband. She then called to her husband who was resting inside. When he emerged, Repe's companion pulled out his handgun and shot him in the head and chest. He died instantly.

Reylon, the victim's eldest daughter, tried to go to her father after hearing the gunshot, but after seeing her father dead she jumped out of the house. She immediately called for their neighbors help. Leonisa immediately took the other two children, Raquel and Jennifer, to safety. The gunmen escaped after the shooting. They left a note at the victim's house that read: "Demonyo ka! Hiposon ka!" (You're evil! You must be killed!)

On 6th of September, a group of soldiers had come to Labrador's house. The victim's family believes that the soldiers had come to see them to intimidate them from taking part in any demand for an investigation. This was after a local human rights group, Karapatan in Davao City, had sought the help of the local government to look into the case. The city's legislative body commenced an inquiry in aid of legislation on 9 September.

Vicente Felisilda: shot in front of his brother

Felisilda was 38 years old, a farmer with four children and member of a political party, Bayan Muna. On September 9, 2010 at 7pm, he and his elder brother, Allan, were resting inside a small hut in Mawab town, Compostela Valley after extracting meat from coconut shells in their farm.

While the brothers were resting, two gunmen arrived at the place. They were wearing plain clothes and armed with .45 caliber pistol. At first the two greeted the brothers and tried to make conversation with them by asking what they were doing. However, suddenly one of them shot Vicente at close range. Startled by what he saw, Allan run for safety to a cliff nearby.

Allan could not see what was happening at the hut due to darkness, but he could hear his younger brother moaning in pain. About 20 minutes later, the perpetrators finished his younger brother off as he heard another gunshot coming from the hut. The second round of gunshots had frightened Allan prompting him to jump into the cliff for fear that once they found him they would kill him next.

It was only until about 11pm that Allan emerged from where he was hiding when Vicente's wife, Rosalie, her three children--aged 8, 4 and 2; and her neighbor, Catherine, arrived at the hut. The group had walked for half an hour from where they were staying to check on what was happening at the hut after they heard the gunshots. They saw the victim's body. He suffered gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

The following day, they took Felisilda's body to a local funeral parlor to be embalmed. Here, there were four police investigators from Mawab Municipal Police Station who conducted an investigation; however, the victim's family did not report the shooting to the police. No post mortem examination was conducted before the burial.





LWUA takes over management of Basey Water District until October 15, 2011

October 20, 2010

The woes of the water concessionaires of Basey, Samar may be over within the next eleven months.  This after the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) has “partially” taken over the “management functions” of the nearly 23-year old Basey Water District (BWD) effective October 16.  During the period that the LWUA’s mind, heart and hand will be directly upon the BWD’s organizational and technical concerns, water consumers in the town’s 18 barrios that are directly served by the district, can expect fair, albeit drastic or radical, changes and improvements.  Most importantly, they can expect clean and potable water that is safe to drink even by infants and the sick.

LWUA administrator Daniel I. Landingin designated Antonio Ronelo C. Palencia, the incumbent water utility development chief of LWUA’s Area 6 (Bicol/Visayas), as interim general manager “to effect a partial take-over of the management functions” of the cash-strapped water district, “effective October 16, 2010”.

In his undated memorandum of designation, Landingin instructed Palencia to perform four specific functions, namely:

“1. Review, study and recommend as necessary the effectiveness and workability of the existing organization, facilities, systems, and procedures, policies, guidelines, rules and regulation(s).  Make necessary amendments and/or adjustments so as to conform to LWUA guidelines and policies;

“2. Hire and/or fire such personnel as may be necessary to carry out effectively the take-over of the water district in accordance with the existing laws;

“3. Establish systems and procedures to hasten the institutional growth and viability of the water district; (and)

“4. Provide guidance and training to district employees to improve and attain efficient operations”.

Last October 12, the LWUA czar approved a recommendation for the take-over submitted by LWUA senior deputy administrator Emmanuel B. Malicdem.

Malicdem provided his boss with the background information on the ailing water district, which served as basis for his recommendation.  In his September 27 memorandum for the administrator, he said in part:

“2. The BWD was a beneficiary of the P5.0 Million JICA Grant for Small Water District in 2007.  It was later granted a P0.6 Million loan from LWUA to repay the unremitted contributions to the GSIS.  On March 2009, it availed of a P5.0 Million Emergency Loan for the repair and rehabilitation of its transmission line which was damaged. Simultaneous to the emergency loan, the BWD was granted one (1) year suspension of billings on all loans (including restructured) as a relief of the emergency situation.

“3. The district has yet to resume paying its regular monthly amortization of P47,889 per month starting March 2010 and is now seven months delayed.  On top of this, the district has to pay up P0.57Million suspended billings in less than a year pursuant to LWUA policy.  The amortization on the P5.0 Million Emergency Loan is also forthcoming.

“The (General Manager) has outstanding materials loans with various suppliers amounting to P611,826.70 without prior approval from the (Board of Directors).

“4. Moreover, due to numerous complaints of water consumers of the poor water service of the district, the Municipal Government of Basey, Samar, through the Sangguniang Bayan, issued Resolution No. 108, Series of 2010 requesting the LWUA to take over the management and operation of the BWD for failure of management to provide potable water to its constituents.”

On the same date of Malicdem’s recommendation, Administrator Landingin forthwith recommended  to the LWUA board of trustees the “partial take-over of the management function of the Basey Water District effective October 16, 2010”, incorporating therein as his justification those made in the Malicdem memo.

The LWUA administrator took another proper step before effecting the take-over.  On the day of the town fiesta of Basey, September 29, Landingin wrote Alexis V. Yu, the BWD’s chairman of its board of directors, informing the BOD head, as follows:

“Please be informed that due to the inability on the part of the Basey Water District to cope up with the mounting arrears on the regular monthly amortization, the P0.57 Million suspended billings and forthcoming amortization on P5.0 Million Emergency Loan, we have decided to temporarily take over the management functions of your Water District, pursuant to Sec.36 of PD 108, as amended, and the provision of the Contract of Loan executed between the Basey Water District and the LWUA.

“Our take-over of the Basey Water District will take effect for one (1) year starting October 16, 2010, after which autonomy shall be returned to the water district.  Rest assured that during the period of take-over, we will strive to effect the necessary steps to develop your personnel and operating procedures to promote the viability of your water district.”

Palencia’s designation was attached to that letter for BOD chairman Yu.

It’s not known yet to many in the Waray Region whether the interim general manager, Antonio Ronelo C. Palencia, hails from the World-War-II-historic town of Leyte, or is related to the Palencia families in Leyte.  Perhaps, someone can provide this writer with the IGM’s resume or biodata so that we can get to know him through this corner.

In the meantime, I join the Basaynons in thanking the LWUA for its appropriate action and in welcoming – with our hats off!, IGM Tony Palencia.

At the same time, we all are congratulating the sangguniang bayan of Basey for having been effective in its legislative function that brought its leadership to the water supply crisis that has been facing Basaynons for many years now.   It looks as if it’s only at this time that the SB has awakened to this ageing, and worsening problem – now that a young professional is at its helm as steersman, honorable vice-mayor Raul Sendic Bajas.





RH issue shows confusion among Catholics

October 18, 2010

LIKE a chemical compound called reagent, the RH question exposes the range and scope of the confusion and disaffection among many Catholic faithful toward their Church, her doctrine and discipline. Let´s hope it will also give us an idea of the solution to be applied.

There was an explosion of views, many of them shooting from the hip, but a few also came up, from so-called theologians, with serious arguments that actually contained nothing more than sophistries.

The reckless comments are usually found in the media, with everyone, from editors and reporters to readers, giving their 2 cents worth. The more serious and dangerous ones are found in journals, in seminars and centers of higher learning.

Among the amusing arguments are the accusations that the Church wants to run the whole country, wants to interfere in government affairs, wants to destroy society by encouraging civil disobedience, etc.

We don´t have to spend much time refuting these arguments. They have a short shelf life, since they have no roots, or are like little rocks thrown at the Church, causing some disturbance, but largely left where they fall with hardly anyone taking notice. Wild and gratuitous, they pop in and out anytime and just die under the sun or simply rot.

The more serious threats have to be taken with more caution. They usually come from the ranks of the clergy, a truly disturbing phenomenon. With PhD´s and STD´s, they like to present themselves as the true light in a world plunged in darkness or in a Church stuck in the past. But, ok, let´s always give them the benefit of the doubt.

They usually begin their arguments by introducing themselves as moderates, not hardliners, who try to hew a saner, more rational and compassionate position. With very subtle maneuverings, they try to make themselves the exclusive owners of St. Augustine´s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

They point out to the public that their presentation is not merely anecdotal in shrill tones, but scientific in calm, sober tones, an obvious dig at those who convey the official teaching of the Church by ornamenting it with stories. The implication is that they are not fanatics, like those those who oppose RH.

But they miss out many things as they focus only on their bias of making the RH acceptable. They paint the RH Bill, for example, as a mixed bag, an assortment of good and bad elements that should not just be dismissed. In fact, it should be approved, glossing over the essential issues while sweetening its perceived bad elements.

Not only that, they now appear to be its most serious attorneys, defending it from any question or protest raised against it, openly putting themselves at the other side of the Bishops´ position. That´s loyalty for them.

They seem to be unaware of the global context in which this RH issue was born and developed – the ugly backroom geopolitics and commercial horsetrading done in its name. While they are clearly against abortion, at least, as of now, they are much at sea about contraception.

To them, contraception is not intrinsically evil, an echo of the liberals´ dissent on Humanae Vitae. Pope John Paul II reiterated the intrinsic evil of contraception in his Evangelium Vitae. How clever they are in glib talk, both cutting corners and straying into irrelevant nooks to make their point!

They make a strong appeal for the voice of personal conscience as the final arbiter, without much concern for its formation. Their favorite line is that in the end it´s just a question between the individual and God that matters. All the intervening authorities, the Church Magisterium in particular, are easily set aside.

They usually conclude their arguments by saying that we should not make laws that discriminate against the others who may take the opposite view of what the Church leaders teach. Yes, even in matters of life and morality, they preach that we ought to be open, in a blatant display of what is now known as the tyranny of relativism.

There´s no doubt that the Church authorities have to wage at least a comprehensive information campaign about the RH issue, and to sustain an ongoing formation first among the clergy and then the rest of the faithful.

Church leaders need to summon the help of all Church organs and facilities to pursue this plan. They have to weed out some bad elements in strategic locations in the Church structures, like the seminaries, parishes and some so-called Catholic schools.





A politicised, underdog system of justice

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
October 15, 2010

When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III decided to grant amnesty to the military men charged for rebellion against the government and not to file criminal charges against an official and the policemen involved in the Manila bus hostage incident, it demonstrated how deeply politically controlled the system of justice is in the country. His orders also demonstrate his outright disregard for the prosecution system by taking upon himself the decision as to when and when not to pursue criminal cases in court.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) express its deep concern that President Aquino's decision had further subjected the role of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and its attached agency, the National Prosecution Service (NPS), to political control and undermining. These two orders reaffirmed the vulnerability of the justice department and the prosecution system from political control. These agencies, which are responsible in the investigation and prosecution of criminal cases in court, are in reality underdogs and at the mercy of the President.

The very structure of the country's system of justice is deeply politicized and is subject to political control. The NPS is by authority, under the DoJ. The head of the DoJ is a political appointee of the President and serves at his disposal. The President's power and control extends, not only upon the secretary of the DoJ whom he appointed, but to all the state and public prosecutors under the DoJ.

In the Philippines, the Office of the President (OP) has the power to impose disciplinary sanction, like taking away the salaries and benefits; suspend any senior state prosecutors and public prosecutors anywhere in the country. The President also has power to order the DoJ and the NPS to review cases they are handling. The DoJ secretary serves at the disposal of the President, including reporting to him on the functioning of the prosecution service--such as the decision whether or not to pursue criminal cases in court.

There is no challenge that could be made as to whether the President's decision was based on merit and the evidence gathered by the DoJ and the NPS, but all are at the complete discretion of the President. The system of justice in reality permits, legally and structurally, the Head of State to take over and usurp the role of a prosecutor.

Manila bus hostage: President Aquino's creation of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC), headed by DoJ secretary Ms Leila de Lima, supposedly to investigate and review the incident to identify who should be held criminally liable for the death of the eight Hong Kong nationals was purely founded on publicity. It was nothing more than a façade. However, even at the early stage of the President's announcement its intention was to have a legal machinery to legally justify the exoneration of those who had been involved and subjected to investigation.

Was there really a need to create the IIRC? No. The DoJ and the NPS are legally and structurally mandated to investigate and prosecute cases that breached the country's penal and statutory laws. This is without any regard to the nature of the severity of the offence and who the victims were. The IIRC was rather in reality created as a legal theatrical exercise which would amount to nothing less: once again, it is nothing more than a facade. President Aquino's decision to rescind the IIRC recommendation by not pursuing criminal cases against the top officials and policemen involved revealed the purpose of its creation. There is not even a semblance of accountability.

The AHRC shares Secretary De Lima's concern and disappointment of President Aquino's decision not to pursue the criminal charges in the Manila bus hostage. Her public statement that she is only the President's "alter ego"; and that the IIRC is aware that their recommendations are at the President's disposal, demonstrates how subservient and controlled the DoJ is by the President. The refusal by the President to have full disclosure of the recommendations by the IIRC denies and deprives the possibility of public discourse as to the merit on which the President based his decision.

Grant of amnesty to rebel soldiers: Granting amnesty and executive clemency is legally the authority of the President; however, when power is exercised on the basis of political consideration on the pretext of political reconciliation, outright disregard to judicial process, and unequal treatment as to who deserves amnesty and clemency, the decision borders on the abused of and inequality in the exercise of power.

President Aquino has ordered the granting of amnesty to 300 rebel soldiers, who were involved and charged for the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny; the February 2006 Marines standoff; and the November 2007 Manila Peninsula takeover, purposely for political reconciliation and unity amongst the Filipino people. These soldiers had rebelled against the previous administration; thus, he argued that to grant them amnesty is needed for the unification of the country and good governance.

President Aquino's order, by granting amnesty, which would effectively nullify the ongoing prosecution of their case in court, once again demonstrates his outright disregard to the country's prosecution system. On the Oakwood mutiny case, the public prosecutors spent over seven years in collecting evidence and prosecuting the case, but before the court could render its final judgement on October 28, 2010 the soldiers were already given amnesty. Thus, whether the soldiers would have been convicted or exonerated no longer matters. The merits and substance as to whether the soldiers should be punished for their actions; and for undermining the government, would have no meaning at all.

The AHRC shares the disappointment expressed by Senior State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera in his public interview that by granting "amnesty (before the court could render its judgement) erases all the liabilities of a person as if the offense was not committed." As mentioned, state and public prosecutors are completely at the discretion of the President. Therefore, whether this prosecutor agrees to the President's amnesty or not, the choice is neither his or his superior, DoJ Secretary De Lima, but completely that of the President.

The granting of amnesty to the soldiers should also apply to over 96,000 prisoners all over the country who had been recommended by the Board of Pardons and Parole. This board, however, is once again under the authority and jurisdiction of the DoJ; thus, the decision as to whether the Board's recommendation be granted or not would once again fall under the President. However, should these prisoners not be given amnesty as the soldiers have, it illustrates inequality in the President's application of power.

The AHRC is deeply concerned that decisions within the framework of the country's system of justice have been made on the basis of political consideration and accommodation.

The AHRC renews its call to consider as urgent the pending legislation to afford the National Prosecution Service (NPS) its independence and freedom from political control--legally and structurally. The country's future in its prosecution of criminal cases, particularly in cases involving worst forms of human rights violations perpetrated by politically influential persons in the government, relies heavily on the independence of its system of justice.





Disappeared but unsilenced

A Press Statement by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) on the 10th Anniversary of the Disappearance of the PICOP 6 Workers
October 14, 2010

Artemio Ayala, Jr., Joseph Belar, Arnold Dangquiasan, Jovencio Lagare, Diosdado Oliver and Romualdo Orcullo were unlawfully arrested, illegally detained, inhumanely tortured, violently killed, unceremoniously buried, hastily unearthed, and unconscionably burned.

On the night of October 14, 2000, six sub-contractual workers of the PICOP Resources, Inc. were forcibly abducted from a videoke bar in Sta. Maria, Trento, Agusan del Sur by members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

On the tenth anniversary of their enforced disappearance, their families join FIND (Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance) in urging the Aquino government to formulate and fully implement a human rights agenda that will prevent if not end enforced disappearance and other human rights violations.

FIND challenges the president not to temporize in addressing the persistent impunity and virtual immunity of human rights violators.

After eight long years, only one of the soldiers has been convicted and only as an accomplice to the crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

Giving credence to the prosecution witness, Army Sgt. Eseqiuas Duyogan, who testified in rebuttal, the Regional Trial Court Branch 6 in Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur declared in July 2008 that “there is now cause for the Department of Justice to start an inquiry” into the “criminal culpability” of the 13 other military men whom he implicated in the kidnapping, serious illegal detention, torture and killing of the six workers.

The snail-paced investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) prompted the families to file a complaint for the multiple murder before the office of the Provincial Prosecutors in Agusan del Sur.  The complaint is under preliminary investigation.

The multiple murder case could be problematic because of the absence of the bodies of the victims.  Such eventuality could be obviated by a special law that penalizes enforced disappearance as a continuing crime.

The proposed anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance law specifies concealment of the fate and whereabouts of the victim as one of the elements of the crime.

Eight of the nine anti-enforced or involuntary disappearance bills pending before the 15th Congress adopt the definition of enforced disappearance under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The Convention considers enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

It is beyond dispute that the PICOP 6 case exhibits all the essential elements of enforced disappearance as the workers were abducted and herded into the army camp by a team of soldiers who denied taking them into custody or who concealed the victims’ fate and whereabouts thereby depriving them of protection of the law.

Despite the long wait for an appropriate law under which perpetrators of enforced disappearance can be effectively prosecuted, the families of the PICOP 6 desaparecidos as well as those of other victims of enforced disappearance have been steadfast in their search for truth and justice.

Until the truth is uncovered and justice dispensed, there is no closure to the PICOP 6 and other enforced disappearance cases.





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