The newly-elected 14th Congress has yet to convene, but already it has generated some sparks when Senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV pleasantly surprised the millions who voted for him by coolly stating that among his first priorities were to officially probe into the extra-judicial killings, and particularly into the alleged involvement of the AFP.
Trillanes’ plan immediately garnered support from other legislators such as Sen. Drilon and other Liberal Party stalwarts. Drilon emphasized that “it’s a good area of inquiry not for the purpose of looking for the guilty ones but for purposes of finding out if indeed, this is an unwritten policy.”
There is indeed a crying need for a sustained congressional inquiry on the killings, not just in aid of legislation, but to further confirm that which has already been acknowledged by UN special rapporteurs such as Alston and Stavenhagen. And what poetic justice indeed if the Senate does follow Trillanes’ lead in summoning, first of all, AFP chief Gen. Esperon.
However, Esperon quickly said he will snub Senate inquiries on the basis of the EO 464, Malacañang’s infamous gag order imposed on top officials of the Executive branch. Esperon claimed that “EO 464 is still in effect as far as I know.”
“As far as you know” only shows Esperon’s over-simplistic understanding if not utter ignorance of the law, since the Supreme Court had already ruled with finality in April last year that EO 464’s key provisions – contained in Section 2(b) and Section 3 – were unconstitutional.
But now here comes another general, now Executive Secretary Ermita, who reminds us all that there is still Memorandum Circular 108 and Administrative Order 106 – nothing else but the same EO 464 in another guise.
Esperon’s and Ermita’s hiding under EO 464 showed not only the two generals’ ignorance of jurisprudence, but brazen arrogance and a total disregard for civilian authority and the rule of law. They have merely confirmed widespread public suspicions that the AFP leadership, and Malacanang behind it, have some gruesome secrets to hide on the issue of political killings.
But EO 464 can never prevent the truth from filtering out.
We thus reiterate our support for congressional initiatives, such as that planned by Sen. Trillanes and other pro-human rights legislators, to investigate these killings. We call on them to work closely with the victims and human rights advocates. Instead of just grilling Esperon, they should also agressively seek information from other AFP-PNP officials and enlisted men who know the facts and culprits behind the killings.
If there are kadiri and garapal generals like Ermita and Esperon who are intent in burying the truth, we hope that soon there will be also more AFP and PNP officers and personnel who will be bold enough to come out and provide documents and concrete information about these death-squad killings. #