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Philippines: Extrajudicial killings rise
NewsNotes, November-December 2009

The following is a reprint of an analysis written by Benjie Oliveros and published on Bulatlat.com.

… Father [Cecilio] Lucero was ambushed by heavily armed men suspected to be soldiers last September 6 at 8 a.m. [and] died from multiple gunshot and shrapnel wounds. One of his companions, Isidro Miras, also sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Ironically, his police escort … escaped unscathed.

Surprisingly, the news of Father Lucero’s killing did not get much attention from the media and the general public. Probably because Northern Samar is so far from Metro Manila, the news of his killing did not land in the headlines. The fact-finding mission that investigated Father Luceros killing, which was held October 7-10, could have brought more information to the general public. …

[Unfortunately, the news was not widespread,] as Father Lucero’s killing signifies a very alarming development. First, it shows that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances still persist and impunity still prevails.

[On] October 8, a news item appeared stating that the European Union [and the Philippines] signed a financing agreement whereby the EU committed to provide 3.9 million euros or about $5.8 million to help the government stop extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The funding is aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system and supporting the Commission on Human Rights in prosecuting the perpetrators, establishing a national monitoring system, and providing human rights awareness training to the police and military. Why the EU channeled the funds to the Arroyo government when it is primarily responsible for the impunity is anybody’s guess. Barely a week after the signing, the EU announced that it is working out a bilateral agreement with the Arroyo government.

Second, not only do the killings and disappearances persist, those responsible are becoming bolder and more desperate. ... Lucero is the first Catholic priest ... victim of extrajudicial killings since the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship. The perpetrators had the temerity to risk the political implications of killing a Catholic priest who was even involved in human rights advocacy. If they could kill a priest, pastors, doctors …, lawyers, barangay officials, they could kill just about anybody.

During the first three months of the year, extrajudicial killings were being committed at a rate of one victim per week.

If extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances continue to receive little attention from the media and the general public, it would surely escalate once more. The number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances declined in 2007 because of pressures from the international community and the general public. But the fact that no perpetrator has been brought before the bar of justice shows that the Arroyo government has no intention of putting a stop to the killings and abductions; it is merely lying low while the pressure is strong.

Impunity prevails not merely because of the ineptitude of the police ... . It prevails because the Arroyo government has no intention of prosecuting and is obviously protecting the perpetrators. Worse, impunity prevails because extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are part of official policy: it is integral to and a main feature of Oplan Bantay Laya, the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program. The Arroyo government has seven months before it would relinquish power, if it would do so. A lot could still happen in seven months if the Filipino people, as well as the international community, would not remain vigilant.

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