Let's talk impunity, Mr. President

Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Feb 25 2016 07:53 PM

Dear President Aquino,

I don't know where you find the gall to speak of the abuses of martial law when your government continues to kill innocent civilians across the Philippines.

Saan mo kinukuha ang kapal ng mukha na magtalumpati tungkol sa karapatang pantao?

On the eve of People Power, which swept your mother to the Presidency, you recall your father’s suffering and your sorrows – forgetting the killings, torture, rape, and arson faced by Lumad in Mindanao and other oppressed people across the country.

You twit your predecessor, likening her nine-year rule to the “dark years” of a strongman we ousted after thousands of murders and disappearances, illegal arrests and torture.

Yet under your tuwid na daan, attacks on the Lumad continue even in church sanctuaries far from their besieged mountain communities.

You talk of Marcos’ impunity and heap scorn on his son’s refusal to acknowledge the atrocities of martial law. Yet you, too, are as blind to the truth of human rights abuses.

You have ignored entreaties from allies, rights groups, UN agencies and a cardinal to pullout rampaging military and paramilitary forces from Lumad communities.

Do you know that 30 children have been killed by your Armed Forces in the last six years, Mr. President? That’s almost half of the 70 Lumad slain by your government.

Last year, you rebuffed a Lumad delegation led by a frail woman chieftain.

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay is almost 90, Mr. President, but she can tell you of her people’s experience with impunity.

In the 1970s, Bai Bibi saw family and friends die when Ferdinand Marcos gave blessings for loggers to take their ancestral lands. Today, her people are refugees from ancestral lands under siege by firms that want to set up mines and plantations.

Today, Bai Bibi grieves for five children injured in an arson of their Davao refugee camp, and another child killed by the paramilitary last month.

Saan ka kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?

When you beat your chest, remember these: You allowed mining firms to fund the militia who now rampage across the land. 

You refused to heed political allies who warned of growing abuses by a militia controlled by your Armed Forces.

You shrugged off the murders of a school head and two indigenous leaders in front of children – as your troops stood nearby, doing nothing. You ignored the Commission on Human Rights findings that your soldiers summarily executed two children, a blind old man and two other young adults in Bukidnon.

You stood by, silent as your generals hosted murderers in Camp Aguinaldo and accompanied them to Congress, where they bedazzled your pet lawmakers with a theory about god given rights to kill civilians who espouse “foreign ideas.”

Saan ka kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?

You think People Power’s legacy is only for your friends? You think human rights are only for those who sing hosannas to your crooked path? 

Nine of 10 Lumad children have never been to school. Mr. President. And yet in the last two years your AFP and their militia dogs have torched or closed down some dozens of alternative schools funded partly by churches. 

Children bereft of their schools. Childred dead. Children maimed. Children fleeing homes in the dead of night. Their parents dead, tortured, hunted.

Thirty years after the fall of a dictator, I see another tyrant in Malacanang.

I no longer think the problem is ignorance or an attention-challenged brain, Mr. President. Your every act of commission or omission on the Lumad issue has been geared to offering fat cats a free pass to ancestral lands protected by law -- as Marcos did.

Saan ka kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.