It is hard to see last week’s events as anything other than extremely damaging for the government and the country in the eyes of the world.
It was bad enough that the United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston described the Armed Forces of the Philippines as being “in almost total denial” about the need to stop the plague of killings in the countryside and claimed that the executive branch, “openly and enthusiastically aided by the military” was impeding the legitimate work of party list groups.
As if that was not enough, the government at first refused to make public the report of its own Melo commission (which made it look guilty) and then grudgingly agreed to release it after all (which made it look weak). Amando Doronila criticized the initial failure to release the report as follows:
The report will not be released to the Filipino people, who are the victims of the extrajudicial executions which have claimed more than 800 lives of political activists since 2001. The Philippine media will have no access. Ms Arroyo does not trust the Filipino media and has a running feud with them. With this, Filipinos have been denied the fundamental right to learn what’s behind the most atrocious wave of political murders since the Marcos dictatorship.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales probably doesn’t care, but I don’t think the international community would have been very impressed by his attempts to belittle Professor Alston. Here is a sample: “that sonamugun does not know what he is talking about … he’s just a rapporteur. He’s just a hired man from the UN in certain specific projects … he should be thankful he can even come here … he’s been brainwashed”. That kind of language does not go down well internationally. In fact it sounds exactly like, well, someone “in a state of total denial”.
Still, we should at least be grateful that, because of both Philip Alston’s request and pressure from people like Doronila, the Melo report was finally released. The full text can be found here, but here is a key passage:
the state has the responsibility of protecting its citizens and making sure their liberties are respected … if the state fails to investigate, prosecute or redress private non-state acts in defiance of fundamental liberties, it is in effect aiding the perpetrators of such violations, for which it could be held responsible under international law.
That’s right on the money.
The government seems to feel that, by issuing general statements about being opposed to violence yet praising to the skies one of the main people accused of carrying it out, Major General Palparan, it is fulfilling its responsibilities. The United Nations and the Melo Commission have shown that it is not.
Note: As always, Manolo Quezon provides a lot of useful links to source material, including the full text of the special rapporteur's statement. Alston will be presenting a formal report by way, "within three months".