By MARY ANN “MANJA” BAYANG
Widows wept and orphans wailed. People rose up in rage as they blamed the government. They shouted in anger at the government’s disdain. The shouts and the cries grew louder and stronger. The world heard what the government refused to hear. The world saw what our government claims to be inexistent. But the killings went on – like a phantom robbing lives in the dead of night.
The fingers point to Malacanang. Malacanang pointed to the Communist Party of the Philippines – and then the finger is pointed back. Then it became an issue of statistics as the government accused militant groups of bloating up the numbers of extra-judicial killings. All sides accuse the other sides of exaggerating facts and manufacturing propaganda to gain public sympathy and make the other sides look more disgusting. And the killings continued.
As public and international pressure grew stronger and the government can hardly feign innocence, deafness and blindness, it created the Melo Commission to investigate the killings. Militant groups snubbed the Melo Commission but which nevertheless came up with a report affirming their accusations. The Melo report pointed to the government especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be responsible for the spate of killings of activists, lawyers and journalists. In an unsurprising move, the government refused to release the Melo report claiming it is not yet complete. An act violative of the right of the public to be informed!
The Melo report was not even furnished to the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings who visited the country a few days after the report was submitted to the government. The UN team nevertheless went on to conduct its own investigations and made themselves busy meeting with the AFP, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the President herself, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and various government agencies. The said team also met with civil society organizations. As a result, the team claims to have gathered a huge data which are certainly much more than what had been made available to national investigation groups like the Melo Commission and the Task Force Usig. Even while the UN team was going around interviewing people from various sectors, the killings went on.
Without directly stating that the government is responsible for the extra-judicial killings, the UN team identified several major concerns which the government needs to genuinely address. It has categorically stated that “the AFP remains in a state of almost total denial (as its official response to the Melo report amply demonstrates) of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them. The President needs to persuade the military that its reputation and effectiveness will be considerably enhanced, rather than undermined, by acknowledging the facts and taking genuine steps to investigate.”
The government’s liability is downright clear and incontrovertible. Even its own Melo commission says so. The widows and the orphans say so. The people say so. The world says so.
But what face does the government display? Despite blood in one hand, a gun in the other and hundreds of dead bodies at its feet, the government insists its innocence. Incomprehensible! #