EDITORIAL | How much lower can a nation’s dignity be dragged down?

www.nordis.net

Thursday, the 29th: The gavel hammered the guilty verdict sentencing three of the policemen found guilty of killing seventeen year old Kian Lloyd delos Santos in August of 2017. The courts’ findings and decision was the day’s top story that hit major newspapers internationally.

Though the court found them guilty of murder, to many readers this further cements the fact that extra-judicial killings or EJK, with deep impunity persists in the country. In terms of Justice, is this all that can be done for the victims of EJK? their orphans, the survivors, the deeply terrorized populations? Shouldn’t the long arm of the Law also reach all EJK victims since Marcos’s martial law to this present administration, at least?

EJK is the killing of a person carried out only by state authorities without due process, “as extra-legal fulfillment of their prescribed roles”. Countless extrajudicial killings has too often made targets of respected civilian people’s leaders, community activists, human rights defenders, trade unionists, vocal dissidents, church workers, religious leaders, teachers, lawyers, and the like. To the citizenry, Justice must include the masterminds of such heinous undertakings against humanity.

All government workers take oath and swear to their God and country to uphold the Law of the Land, in this case the Philippine Constitution, and therefore to hold sacred the Bill of Rights or Article III which begins with “section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. And, section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, …” Any good citizen must contest and condemn the breaking of this sacred oath to serve the country… keep the dignity.

Wednesday, in the evening of the 28th, a solidarity rescue mission composed of human rights defenders went to assist a group of students and teachers who were fleeing (bakwit) from their school and sitio that was overran by armed elements of the AFP and its local militia threatening and harassing them.

On their way back, the mission caravan along with the rescued children and their teachers were stopped and detained at a check point of armed men, and they were subsequently arrested on accusations built from a very superficial assessment of the situation. By Thursday, they were slapped with charges of violating the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, or kidnapping and human trafficking for the transport of minors in Davao del Norte.

Along with 79 year old Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, Cordillera’s very own Pya Malayao and 15 others (of the more than 70 people) were charged and now detained by the very agencies sworn to uphold the Law and to protect the citizenry, especially minors and women.

Their story now unfolds before the world’s view as all media cover these urgent events not because good governance is showcased but more of unfolding the urgent truth of what is happening to the 70 victims, the hard data reflecting the real situation of 70 million Filipino peasants, workers, students, professionals urban poor populations, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders today.

Even the Commission on Human Rights reiterates in a recent interview, “The Constitution also guarantees that no person shall be denied equal protection of the laws. As such, we expect the government to uphold its obligations to protect these rights, including making perpetrators of crimes accountable before our courts — may they be members of NPA or not.”

May all of us keep tab of these events, and have the courage to condemn the violations to the human rights of ordinary citizens (like the victims in both cases cited here), even if it is only out of fear that such if left to thrive, these violations may even reach our doorsteps. How much lower can we allow lawbreakers and tyrants drag down what is left of our dignity as a Filipino? And a Nation?# nordis.net

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