Friday, April 30, 2010

A Reflection Gathering: Human Rights Under Nine Years of the Arroyo Government


We gathered at the Angelicum College in Quezon City on April 28, 2010
to reflect on the human rights situation in the country in the nine
years of the Arroyo Government. Our reflection was marked by the
stories of the kith and kin of victims of human rights violations and
how these violations have been brought about by the government’s
counter insurgency program through the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).

We shared the anguish of these relatives. We grieved over the
extra-judicial killings of more than a thousand people since 2001. We
were saddened by stories of torture and the enforced disappearance of
more than 200 people. We lamented the forcible evacuation and
displacement of thousands of people in the rural areas as a result of
military operations. We recalled with horror the massacre in
Maguindanao characterized among others by the fact that it had the
most number of journalists killed in a single incident. We expressed
alarm at the continuing detention of 43 health workers who were
illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal.

The human rights situation under the Arroyo Government is the worst
since that of the Martial Law years under Marcos. None in recent
years, can compare to the culture of impunity that characterized these
assaults on human dignity.

The statistics are no mere figures. They represent the scale and
magnitude of the gruesome impact of OBL. It is a counter-insurgency
program that has not made a distinction between armed combatants and
civilians propelled by the burning desire to serve and promote
significant changes for the better in the lives of people mired in
systemic poverty and neglect. The victims are farmers, workers,
community leaders, indigenous people, Muslims, activists, students,
health workers, churchworkers, lawyers, journalists, human rights
defenders and party-list organizers and volunteers. None in recent
memory can match the viciousness of the OBL and the human toll on
civilians whose only crime, if indeed it was a crime that warranted
their deaths and suffering, was principled dissent against government
and in favor of the welfare of the majority, the safeguarding of
posterity and patrimony of this country. The OBL is very much in
place. With the year 2010 as the deadline to beat. To meet the target
means more bloodbath.

To this day not a single perpetrator of these killings and violence to
human life has been convicted. It is a chilling indictment on a
government which claims adherence to democracy. It breeds righteous
indignation and fuels further discontent.

Our reflection bids us to hold high the struggle for the vindication
of the innocent and the punishment of those who willfully destroyed
life. Our reflection bids us demand of those in power that
perpetrators of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and
other human rights violation be brought to the bars of justice. The
Arroyo Government must be held accountable for the repressive OBL and
the death, disappearance and abuse of innocent civilians in the name
of counter-insurgency.

We are people who believe in God’s redeeming love and call to be one
people under God’s sovereignty. There can be no more compelling reason
for us to bear witness and denounce this travesty, than the call to
live out and bear witness to our baptism that calls us to uphold the
sanctity of life. One killing is one too many. Oplan Bantay Laya is an
abomination – an instrument of violence, bloodshed and defiance of the
divine will of abundant life for all. It must be stopped.

Finally, we issue this challenge to those who will be victorious
following the May 10 elections: fulfill your promises; give justice to
the victims of human rights violations; end political repression;
discontinue the OBL as a policy and never embark on any similar
policy; and, address the roots of the insurgency namely, poverty and

April 28, 2010