By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Reviewing the top issues in 2007, I finally settled on the following as the hottest issues: extrajudicial killings, which include journalists among their many victims; deregulation and privatization of the oil industry; and the liberalization of the mining industry. These must be addressed by the present administration if it wants to show that it is there to protect the interests of the people.
Human rights watchdogs point out that since Pres. GMA took to power in 2001, her regime has chalked up a record of more than 800 extrajudicial cases and nearly 200 cases of forced disappearances. For this year alone, there have been nearly 70 cases of extrajudicial killings; journalists were the victims in five cases, the latest of which is the ambush-killing of broadcaster Fernando Lintuan on December 24.
These watchdogs say that this year’s record is lower comparable to last year’s. This seems to be the result of international pressure on the government, which in turn is due to the lobby work by human rights activists both in the Philippines and worldwide. Still fresh is the report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston describing the human rights situation in the country, and pointing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other government security forces as liable for most of the extrajudicial killings.
I consider extrajudical killings as one of the worst crimes against the human person, particularly taking into account the nature of work of those killed. Most of the victims were activists who had been exercising their constitutional rights, such as freedom of expression, of speech, and of the press; petition the government for redress of grievances; the right to organize; and the right to bring information to the public, among others.
Activism is not a taboo under our system. In fact, the exercise of these rights are encouraged under our bill of rights and other international instruments, which form part of the law of the land, as provided by our fundamental law. Our government, including the AFP, is mandated to serve and protect the people. It is however the government that violates these rights. While it is a crime to take life without due process, Alston said that most of these extrajudical killings were attributed to the government.
Thus, killing these activists not only violated their most basic rights and those of their families. It affects as well the rights of the public, since activists directed their issues to the public. The same goes with journalists whose roles are to bring information to the public. Killing them violates not only their basic right to life, but also the public’s right to information. These killings are done unabatedly without due process; whereas democratic institutions were supposedly reestablished in 1986.
The international attention and pressure will of course help slow down the killings in the Philippines, but it is neither the solution. Remember that the GMA administration has several policies that institutionalized these killings. Thus, the government must drop the policies tagging legal personalities and organizations critical to its rule as enemy of the state. These policies are contained in the AFP’s Oplan Bantay Laya and in their propaganda, such as AFP’s Knowing the Enemy. These institutions are no longer the protector of the people but their oppressor.
The policies of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization of our economy have brought worse than good for our people. The effects of these policies can be pinpointed on the deregulation of the oil industry and the liberalization of the mining industry.
The deregulation and privatization of the oil industry (through the oil deregulation law) has now authorized oil companies to increase prices at their whims and caprices. Though they claimed through media that there will be no increase today, they have already increased 15 times for this year 2007 alone. Now the collective rights of the people for affordable fuel are being violated due to this deregulation and privatization of the oil industry, whereby the state exercises almost no regulatory powers at all.
If the administration is serious enough, then it should review and repeal the oil deregulation law and nationalize the oil industry to protect the rights of the people from profit-oriented foreign corporations, which had been raking profits from the people through the unjustified price increases on its products.
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The mining liberalization and deregulation policy for an easier entry of foreign corporations in controlling and dominating the industry has been felt most by indigenous peoples. For these people, the source of survival is their lands. To mine their lands would lead to their being deprived of their collective rights to their lands and development.
Even with the advent of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, the state as the owner of the land and resources has been favoring mining corporations by granting permits to mining corporations. In the Cordillera region for example, 68% percent of the region’s 1.8 million hectares land area is covered by mining applications, mostly by foreign corporations and their subsidiaries. The situation of indigenous communities nationwide is the higher expression of the region’s situation.
Indigenous groups observed that the heavy deployment of forces in the Cordillera communities is concentrated in areas covered by mine applications. These mining-related troop deployments lead to numerous human rights violations – mostly collective rights violations. It is clear that the mining industry, particularly with the creation of national and regional mining councils, will grow full blown next year.
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If the above issues are not be addressed by the administration next year, the present situation will turn for the worse.#