Stop the Killings in the Philippines
A Statement by the
Hong Kong Christian Institute
The Hong Kong Christian
Institute (HKCI) is deeply concerned about the increasing number of
political killings and human rights violations in the Philippines. We urge
the Philippine government to take stronger action to address this issue and
prevent further killings from taking place.
The right to life is the
most fundamental human right. We applaud the Philippine government's recent
decision to abolish the death penalty. Meanwhile, however, there are ongoing
and escalating political killings taking place. HKCI is appalled that more
than 700 people have died from extrajudicial killings since President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001. Moreover, hundreds of cases of
abductions and harassment have also occurred.
Even though President Arroyo
expressed her concern about these extrajudicial killings in her State of the
Nation Address on July 24, 2006, and Task Force Usig (TFU) was set up in
May, extrajudicial killings still persist. Just after President Arroyo's
speech, for example, two people – Rei Mon Guran and Alice Claver – were shot
and killed on July 31 in politically motivated incidents. In addition, Dr.
Constancio "Chandu" Claver was also shot in the same attack and is in
critical condition. HKCI is disappointed that the government's concern has
not been translated into effective action to stop these political killings.
General Avelino Razon Jr. of
the Philippine National Police (PNP) denied that more than 700 political
killings have taken place in the Philippines since 2001, a figure reported
by human rights organisations in the country, claiming instead that it was
the propaganda of progressive groups. For the cases that the TFU has
investigated, he asserted that the alleged perpetrators were primarily
members of the New People's Army (NPA), but how can he make this claim when
the investigations have not been completed and no one has been arrested?
The HKCI joined a
fact-finding mission in July 2006 that interviewed a number of witnesses to
these political killings. Many of the victims are members of progressive
group and human rights activists. Before their death, some of them were
harassed and warned not to continue their struggles. According to witnesses,
some of the perpetrators were masked and were wearing military uniforms.
Although there are witnesses
to some extrajudicial killings, they are too frightened to speak up, a
reflection of the loopholes in the witness protection system that
discourages witnesses from giving testimony. Some of the victims' families
have even fled to other communities to avoid further harassment. Meanwhile,
the commitment of the government and police to investigate these killings
needs to be questioned as the victims' families have complained that
investigations have been insufficient, and the cases have been dismissed in
a short period of time because of insufficient evidence.
HKCI strongly denounces
these political killings which have snatched people's lives. This political
repression suppresses the expression of people's political beliefs and
convictions and attempts to silence dissidents. HKCI wants to remind the
Philippine government that the world is watching the alarming and increasing
number of human rights violations in the country. Each killing is a blemish
on the international image of the Philippines.
HKCI demands that the
Philippine government protect the life of every citizen. Since members of
progressive groups, union leaders, farmers, journalists, human rights
lawyers and church leaders are the people at greatest risk, the government
should take measures to ensure their safety. All threats reported to the
police should immediately be followed up, and protection should be provided.
When extrajudicial killings occur, the police should promptly and
impartially investigate every killing and should bring the perpetrators to
justice as soon as possible.
As for the loopholes in
witness protection, the PNP should examine the deficiencies in the programme
and quickly reform the system.
Furthermore, the government
should stop labeling human rights activists as NPA members without evidence
to substantiate these claims. These accusations can not justify the
harassment and human rights violations committed against the victims; these
accusations can not give the police and military a state-sanctioned license
Among the people who have
died from these political killings, quite a number of them are from the
church sector. HKCI is especially inspired by the courage and commitment of
many Christian activists to be faithful to the Gospel and to walk with the
poor, to challenge the oppressor and to seek justice for all in spite of
many challenges and obstacles. Although their lives are at risk, they still
dare to confront these challenges and obstacles. Their example offers so
much from which we Christians in Hong Kong can learn, especially their
witness and presence in society. In addition to joining the fact-finding
mission, HKCI will continue to raise the awareness of Hong Kong's people
about the violence that is threatening the lives of so many Filipinos. We
add our voices to those of the Filipino people and others around the world:
The killings must stop now!
Lack of political will to
stop extrajudicial killings demonstrates drift from democracy
A Statement by the
Asian Human Rights Commission
The Amnesty International
report on the political killings, human rights violations and peace process
in the Philippines published in August 2006 points to the need for the
political will to investigate and stop political killings and the legacy of
impunity in the country:
"Unearthing the evidence
establishing responsibility for the current pattern of political killings
will take political will. It will require political determination and
persistent practical efforts to undo the legacy of impunity, which has the
potential to undermine efforts to hold perpetrators of political killings
accountable and is aided by the assumption that such killings are to some
degree an acceptable by-product of continuing armed conflict."
What has become obvious is
that, despite massive protests against extrajudicial killings in the
Philippines, the government has shown no political will to stop these
killings. No clear command has been given to the armed forces to stop these
killings, and no clear command has been given to any authority to
investigate all of these killings. What the government has resorted to, as
many observers have rightly pointed out, is to engage in a multitude of
public stunts to show some expression of concern but to announce or pursue
no real action of any significance.
unwillingness to address an issue of such enormous national concern, and one
on which much international pressure has been exerted, raises serious
questions about who has political control over the elimination of
extrajudicial killings. Is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo willing to stop
these killings, or is she really supporting such action by the military? Or
is she not capable of stopping these killings? If the latter is the case, a
serious issue exists in which the government has no control over a military
enterprise that is now affecting, not only a large number of lives in the
country, but also the security of the people as a whole.
Given the fact that the
killings are continuing despite expressions of massive public concern, the
failure of the government to respond to these extrajudicial killings needs
to be probed much deeper by all concerned people. If the government is
afraid of creating friction with the military or some of its leaders, then
the issue of greater concern that arises is whether the democratic form of
government as envisaged by the Philippine Constitution is intact or not. The
question is relevant to several other countries as well in which the
effective command of many issues has shifted to the military while a formal,
democratic form of government is presented as the public face of the
Observing the nature of
extrajudicial killings that are taking place in the country for quite some
time, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is of the view that such a
serious transformation has, in fact, taken place in the Philippines.
Externally visible manifestations of democracy coexisting with internal
transformation into an authoritarian system expresses itself in the sharpest
possible way through these extrajudicial killings. The issue of political
will therefore does not have the same meaning as it does in the context of a
democracy where people still have the possibility to assert their will
through their government. As authoritarianism takes root, there is a
political inevitability of silencing dissent. What seems to be taking place
in the Philippines is the shift of will of the actual power holders to
silence dissent by drastic means.
The AHRC once again calls
upon all concerned people in the Philippines as well as in the international
community to treat the matter of stopping extrajudicial killings as an issue
related to the very survival of democracy in the Philippines. The people of
the Philippines have a long history of resistance to authoritarianism, and
perhaps one more moment in their history has arrived for them to save their
values and democratic system through open resistance. At this moment, the
people of the Philippines deserve the complete support of all democratically
minded people throughout the world.
Universal Destination of Goods, Anyone?
By Rev. EUTIQUIO ‘EULY’ B. BELIZAR, JR., SThD
August 10, 2006
Some scenes, played out
daily in the Philippines, could break your heart. For instance, you’d see
thousands of people cramped in airports, trying to leave the country out of
desperation to look abroad for jobs and opportunities that are scarce at
home. But you’d also witness those equally trying to return home from
cruel working conditions and other tragic work-related experiences in other
countries. There are impressive posh villages, malls, high rise buildings,
state-of-the-art infrastructures and business establishments in our cities;
but these are drowned out by the sheer number of shanties, aging buildings,
makeshift homes and rather slimy enclaves of the urban and rural poor. You
would think you are in the middle of two worlds, two countries that are
always meeting (with apologies to Mark Twain) but barely changing.
I have often thought that
one big reason why the
and the world are in such a sorry state today is simply that so few own so
much. Of course, there is such a thing as a right to private property. Even
the Church recognizes that. But it has also been her constant teaching that
there exists a prior principle to which that right is subordinate. Most
people (surprisingly, even otherwise responsible Catholics) rarely know it.
Or if they do, it isn’t easy to tell. But here goes. The Church through the
Second Vatican Council makes it clear that “God destined the earth and all
it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be
shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by
charity. No matter what the structures of property are in different
peoples…we must never lose sight of the universal destination of
earthly goods” (GS 69).
Unbelievable? Consider this:
This teaching is founded on God’s original intention of entrusting “the
earth and all its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to
take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits” (Gen.
1:26-29; CCC 2402). And how does this concern you and me? You guessed right.
This principle is the basic limitation of the right to private property. It
was not to one individual man that the earth was entrusted but to man as
a whole, that is, the whole human collectivity, as implied in the Hebrew
word adamah (from the earth) which describes the condition of all
human persons, male or female, regardless of race, culture or creed that
originated from and dwell on the earth.
On the other hand, the
neglect of this fundamental truth by our society’s subtle overstating of the
right to private property has created the current monstrous imbalances in
the distribution of the world’s goods. In the Philippines alone, the ratio
that assigns almost ninety percent of the nation’s wealth to only ten
percent of its population has resulted in the continuing and dehumanizing
poverty of the masses.
Recent studies confirm the
observation that only those who have control of the ninety percent of the
country’s wealth has had the lion’s share of the benefits from the supposed
tiger status (which only groaned and not roared among the poor) of the
economy during the Ramos administration till the present. The irony is not
lost to many that a nation which prides itself in its Christian identity and
heritage could be so blatantly inconsistent with the teachings of its faith.
The goods originally meant for universal destination are, in the
Philippines, destined only to a particular few. What the late Holy Father,
Pope John Paul II, judges to be “one of the greatest injustices in the
contemporary world” (SRS 28) is a daily and ubiquitous reality in this
The Need for a Concerted
Effort Among Nations
Obviously the Philippines is
not alone in the matter of imbalances in goods distribution. Hers is only
one among many of such other imbalances in the whole world. Which is why the
Second Plenary Council of the Philippines suggests a worldwide course of
action to deal with the problem. “Because earthly goods are meant for all,
there is a responsibility for developed countries to aid developing
countries and to correct the terms of commercial relationships that
presently favor the richer and more powerful countries” (PCP II 298).
To a poor nation this is
necessary and to an objective observer, logical. But how does this sound to
the collective ears (or hearts) of the world’s wealthier nations? In point
of fact, it demands a collective movement from those nations in the upper
rungs of the wealth pyramid, one that must address the present distribution
imbalances in terms of offering concrete aids to the economies of poorer
countries and, more radically, by making corrections to the existing
one-sided commercial relationships in the world economy. Tall order? Indeed.
Why? Because such an act has to be guided by a recognition of the social
dimension of private property which sensitizes nations to the needs of the
poorer portions of the human race and the injustice inherent in merely
maintaining the status quo.
Such a recognition,
admittedly, has very few adherents today except mostly in terms of lip
service. Present realities do, however, admit of considerable efforts from
developed countries to concretize the first proposition, that is, they offer
certain types of economic aid to poorer counties. But the crux of the matter
is that the world’s economic order is still a cross for poorer countries.
The reason is as simple as it is stark: Very little is being done to correct
A Poor Country’s Courses of
Nothing is one-sided in the
quest for social transformation. Poorer countries often learn the hard way
that the needed action cannot come, and does not come, exclusively from the
developed countries of the world. Not even the Church, immersed as always in
everything local while struggling to fulfill a mission deemed universal, can
remain on the sidelines. Besides, poorer countries realize that it helps to
also help oneself find the way out of the woods.
For instance, the Philippine
Church through PCP II already takes a serious look into the Philippine
situation and makes suggestions of its own. It is good to look back and
bring them into consideration. Fundamentally PCP II uses the principle of
the universal destination of goods as a springboard. Setting the principle
in the Philippine context the Council proposes a threefold course of action:
(1) the avoidance of capital hoarding by using it instead to create
employment for those who have no work or are underemployed; (2) the
diffusion of the use and ownership of the goods of the land for the benefit
of all; and (3) a truly comprehensive agrarian reform (PCP II 303).
Capital hoarding is still
rampant but there are more signs of it being used now than before for
employment generation and for re-energizing local businesses. But there is
hardly a dent to the problem of the exclusive use and ownership of the goods
of the land with the exception perhaps of more communal situations in the
existing religious orders, in the Basic Ecclesial Communities and other
communities of renewal. And, needless to say, a truly comprehensive agrarian
reform remains an unrealized aspiration in the
Our present situation is
characterized by deep imbalances, disturbing but no longer surprising,
considering that it is an outcome of an unjust economic and social order,
now further driven by market forces that work by self-interest. The question
is asked as to which should prompt the real changes? Forces from the outside
seeking to break within? Or inside forces seeking to break out into the
open? I say both. Our social concerns, after all, presuppose an informed
social conscience. It is clear that PCP II’s suggested courses of action are
possible only through a more mature, less profit-oriented and socially
sensitive mindset among our economic, political and socio-cultural elite. We
used to have a simpler term for this: UNSELFISH. But this mindset must be
supported by appropriate laws and effective socio-economic-political
In a word, the condition
needed is nothing short of what the Christian faith calls a radical
conversion or metanoia that must take place not only in the hearts of
individual Filipinos, not only in the large majority of the population but
also in those who influence structures that still prevail in our society and
keep it from being truly free, equal and fraternal. To quote the late Pres.
John F. Kennedy: “A society that cannot help the many who are poor cannot
save the few who are rich.”
THERE ARE FOUR SAMARS IN
EUROPE AND ASIA, COULD THEY ALSO HAVE ORIGINATED FROM THE WARAY-WARAY WORD ‘SAMAD’?
Samar Was Never Wounded
By CHITO DELORIA DELA TORRE
Vice-Chairman, Board of
Catbalogan Cable Television Media Advocates Nucleus (CCATMAN)
Samar, it seems, used to be
the official name of the third largest island of what in 1946 came to be
known as the Republic of the
It also used to be the name of the province that bore the name of that
island during Spain’s colonial rule in the Philippines.
The island (with a combined
population of 1,517,585 in year 2000, 41 per cent of the Eastern Visayas
[Region VIII] population of 3,730,765 or 2% of the Philippine population of
76,498,735) is 5,058 square miles or 13,100 square kilometers in total area,
second to Mindanao in size, while Luzon is the largest of the Philippines’
Yet, just how it was named,
local historians have not found a very clear and acceptable answer even up
to this day when it appears that more of the island’s inhabitants are
engaged in a research that has got to do with the beginnings of Samar.
This should not, however, be
construed to mean that a search into how Samar came to being as the name of
the island that become an island province and that was divided into three
provinces - Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and Western Samar - by Republic
Act 4221 (also known as the Samar Division Act) on June 19, 1965 would now
be useless and irrelevant. The effort may in the end be rewarding, for then
it may break a myth that stays on until today in the minds of many Samarnons,
and Filipinos - to speak of a bigger community - that Samar was taken from
the word samad, although that term, which in Waray-Waray, the local
dialect in Samar means in English “wound” (for the noun function) or
“wounded” (for the adjective function), could give a good historical value
to the culture of the people that inhabited the early years of the island
before they played host to Portuguese circumnavigator Ferdinand Magellan who
rested in Suluan (south of now Guiuan, Eastern Samar and about 1.13
kilometers east of Homonhon island) waters between March 16, 1521 and the
afternoon of March 25, 1521. Perhaps a scarcely supported literature
ventured to claim that the word “samad” also aptly described the island’s
A cursory look into some
available sources of information would show that four other places in the
world and outside the
have been named Samar. These are Samar in Sichuan, China, Samar in Izmir,
Turkey, Samar in Chad, and Samar in Jordan. Apart from the place-name Samar,
there are places named Samara (which in Waray-Waray dais a verb form
signifying a command “to cause a wound or cut”) and these are found in
Russia (where another administrative division and a river are also named
Samara) and in Ukraine which is bordered by Belarus, Poland, Romania and the
Black Sea. Could the Samar in Sichuan, Izmir, Chad and Jordan have existed
and named long before the Samar in the Philippines during the Spanish time?
This fact is interesting. It
might have been possible that the person who named the island “Samar” could
have come from any of those four Samars, if they predated the Spaniards in
Samar. Or, he could have been familiar with any of those foreign lands.
This brings up the
questions: Who named Samar island “Samar”? and Where could he have come
from? Being able to trace that person might yet help in discovering the
origin of the name of Samar the island. If he was with the early Spanish
rulers, he could have persuaded the Spanish government in the Philippines to
give the island that name. He could have existed much earlier than when
manuscripts or books were written (some translated to the English language
in much later years) about Samar, like that of Miguel de Loarca which came
out in 1582, or by Fr. Cantius Kobak who referred to the arrival of the
Jesuits in Tinago (also reported as Tinagon, it was the early settlement of
present-day Tarangnan, a coastal town next to Catbalogan, the capital town
of the province of Western Samar) on October 15, 1596 (also reported as
October 22, 15 or 12 days after the Jesuits mission left Manila which they
reached overland from Sorsogon on first on June 14, 1596 after sailing from
Mexico as among 70 missionaries comprising an expedition led by Francisco
Tello de Guzman).
There is no question about
the name “Samar” that applies to the province that was christened by RA 4221
in 1965 as “Western Samar”.
The provisions of the law are crystal clear. The law provided that
shall retain the name “Samar”.
The map produced by Antonio
de Pigafetta showed the islands of “ZZamal”, “Zuluam” and “Humunu” or
“Aguada ly boni Segnaly” (“the Watering-place of good Signs”). From this, it
could be assumed that the name of
Samar then was
Zzamal and not “Samad” as later literature wrote. (Pigafetta was Magellan’s
chief chronicler. He wrote Primo viaggio intorno al mondo, a full
account of his day-to-day voyage with Magellan which was first translated in
French and published in Paris in 1523 which turn was translated in Italian
in 1536. Pigafetta’s diary did not interest Charles V of Spain.) A later
translation of Pigafetta’s account used “Zamal” instead of Zzamal as used by
Pigafetta. Based on this map and translation, it could safely be said that
“Samar” was an improvement of the word “Zamal” and therefore the island
named Samar was originally named Zamal.
But again, it might have
been asked, why was the island named “Zzamal” or “Zamal”? Did Pigafetta hear
it from the natives themselves of Zuluam (Suluan island in later years)?
It was in the afternoon of
March 18 that Magellan and his voyagers first had a talk with the first nine
men that approached them via a baloto (boat) from Zuluam. In the next
friendly talks that unfolded at the Humunu (Homonhon) shore, Pigafetta
recorded the natives having named the island where they (the Spanish
voyagers) anchored as Humunu, but called it Acquada da li bouni Segnialli
(the “Watering-place of good Signs”). Never in those talks did the natives
of Zuluam explain how Zzamal got its name. It was not even suggested that
the natives had any samad on their bodies or that they were a breed
of men who loved getting wounded in bloody wars of spears, bladed weapons,
and bows and arrows. From what Pigafetta wrote, it was even clearer to one’s
imagination that the first people of Samar were friendly, hospitable and
loved very much to talk about themselves, their culture, their land, and the
things around them. They could have been the first tour guides of the
Philippines! With a background of friendly people, it would be too hard to
imagine that they could be sporting wounds and name their land after them.
Media Killings: A threat to
By RICKY J. BAUTISTA
August 5, 2006
"...this country is becoming a world of lawless elements and hired killers."
When will killing of
I’m afraid it won’t. It
won’t for now. Not until lording apologists and power-grabbing individuals
learn to live in society become tolerant of freedom of expression not to
their liking or equally dissimilar to them.
Not until, this country
considers the value of a human life. It won’t stop not until some
intellectuals in the government realize that continuing violence and
killings of journalist endangers the whole society.
Since our country gained
independence in 1986, some 56 journalists were killed in the line of duty,
including some 17 other journalists who were also killed for reasons not
connected to their work.
In Eastern Visayas, the
latest journalist killed by still unidentified gunmen was Paquito “Pax”
Diaz. He was shot at close range past 6 in the afternoon of July 6 near his
home in Magallanes, Tacloban City while waiting to his friend at a shed. He
suffered two fatal gunshot wounds at his left eye and chest and arrived dead
at a hospital.
The police, however, traced
the killing of Diaz as not connected to his media works as he is being
identified heading the Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement
of Government Employees (COURAGE), which is very vocal in exposing
government corruption and being a human rights advocate.
The serial killings of
journalists, including those street demonstrators throughout the country
nowadays posed a big threat to Philippine’s Freedom of Expression. The
government, as I see it, appears to be inutile, if not disinterested at all,
in solving these killings of the journalists, considered members of Fourth
Though this media killings,
threats of violence and intimidation, nor any other form of illegal
interference cannot stop us from our moral and social duty, this still
remains the greatest threat to press freedom in the country.
I strongly believe
Philippines as democratic society cannot expect to be governed well without
the benefit of sharing ideas, freedom of expression and information. It is
our lifeblood because we are free and has a right to live in a free country.
Without this freedom, they
cannot expect from us to perform our duties as intended - encouraging and
facilitating an open exchange of news and views through objectivity in
reporting and to exercise of free speech through reporting and making
accurate, truthful and timely information available to the general public.
According to a consolidated
data released by different press organizations in the country, there has an
alarming record of journalists killed in the Philippines from 1986 up to
In fact, this horrifying
violence against us over the last several years earned the Philippines a
ranking as the “most dangerous place for journalists to operate” by the
International Federation of Journalists and as the single “most
dangerous country for journalists” by the
Committee to Protect Journalists.
Most journalists killed in
action are those noted to be critical on exposing corruption scandals or
regularly attacking the government agencies such as the army, police, and
politicians with a group of private armies and hired gunmen.
No doubt, this country is
becoming a world of lawless elements and hired killers. Though despite the
efforts of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s launch of a
$92,000 Press Freedom Fund to curb violence against the media, a general
culture of impunity continues to predominate in the Philippines, and I
believe the journalists’ killers are still scot-free and not brought behind
In cases where suspects have
been identified and arrested, the person or persons who ordered the killing
are still roaming around and enjoys the protection of some powerful
The end of the year brought
lone landmark development, however. In November, former police officer
Guillermo Wapile was convicted for the murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio,
marking the first conviction among 22 cases of journalist killings since the
wave of violence began in 2000.
But, just days later, George
Benjoan, a radio and newspaper journalist known for his aggressive reporting
on official corruption, was shot and killed in Cebu. Many more journalists
in the country sides were killed. President Arroyo gave a 10-day deadline to
his policemen to produce results, but as of this moment, no one has ever
been convicted of these killings and nobody has been brought to justice. The
deliberate targeting of journalists by those who seek to prevent media from
exposing their activities represents a worrying trend in the world.
The unabated killings,
violence and harassment towards media practitioners in the Philippines must
be stop and cannot be allowed to continue. There can no longer be any
excuses from this administration, no acceptable cause for killing a
journalist. Crime against journalist -- who is also a human rights defender
-- is simply unacceptable!
This is enough! Sacrificing
our own lives, we and our fallen comrades have paid a high price for press
freedom in this country, particularly during periods of military
dictatorship. Our free-thinking journalists and hard-hitting commentators
have been assassinated, persecuted, arrested or incarcerated and their
offices attacked or printing presses destroyed, for insisting on telling the
public the truth, for exposing corruption, for upholding public interests or
for defending citizen rights to the freedom of expression.
Who are these elements
trying to gag the press by silencing the journalists? Why is the process of
prosecuting them so slow? The questions are still unanswered, anyone? We
have no reason to doubt that the attackers have been greatly aided and
emboldened by the law taking a lackluster course. The resolve to punish the
killers has to be stronger rather than being rhetoric, and the pace of the
legal process quickened, if we really want the lives of the journalists to
be a little more secure.
The 2005 Annual Report of
the Freedom House during the Freedom in Asian Cyberspace Conference that the
situation in the Philippines
was actually “partially-free” - better compared to other Asian country, it
is still not acceptable to me. Our government should do everything to stop
these media killings. This is a real threat to our constitution and
So, we must join our hands
in fighting back for freedom must be protected. We must guard that freedom
not only for ourselves, but for all of us living in our beloved country, the
Defend Press Freedom and
Freedom of Expression at all cost!