The Consequences of Service, the Rewards of Greed

Why is it that those who want nothing but the betterment of our people and country are killed and forcibly disappeared while those who seek to destroy it by their greed live on in comfort and wealth?

Vol. VII, No. 21, July 1-7, 2007

Why is it that those who want nothing but the betterment of our people and country are killed and forcibly disappeared while those who seek to destroy it by their greed live on in comfort and wealth?

Jonas Burgos wanted nothing but to uplift poor farmers. Jose Maria Cui was a dedicated human rights advocate and teacher. Bishop Alberto Ramento gave flesh to the church for the poor. Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna led Nestle workers in their struggle for better working conditions. Rev. Edison Lapuz was a pastor of the people. Shirley Cadapan and Karen Empeño both University of the Philippines students with promising lives ahead of them chose to assists farmers instead. Abelardo Ladera was a councilor who was true to his oath as government official of serving his constituents. And yet they either ended up dead or are missing until now.

But the perpetrators of these dastardly acts are still in power, and the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances continue.

Musa Dimasidsing, district school supervisor and member of the board of canvassers in the recent May 2007 elections, had only the interest of democracy at heart when he supported the teachers who exposed that they were forced to write down the names of Team Unity senatorial candidates in official ballots even before the voting started. He exposed that only the votes of 19 out of 57 precincts in Pagalungan town were canvassed. Dimasidsing refused to sign a statement that elections in Maguindanao were orderly and peaceful. For these, he was gunned down in front of an Islamic school in Pikit, North Cotabato.
But the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), headed by its chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., declared that all municipal certificates of canvass in Maguindanao province are valid and were added to the final tally of votes. And controversial Maguindanao provincial COMELEC official Lintang Bedol who should be held responsible for the massive fraud in the province has the temerity to flaunt his guns and his power in spite of calls for his arrest.

Vicente Sumalpong, a radio reporter in Tawi Tawi was killed. He was the 53rd journalist killed since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001. All these journalists did was to expose corruption in their provinces. And yet they ended up dead. But their killers roam freely and the masterminds are still in positions of power.

Did their sacrifices come to naught? It may seem so. But they did not.

Their killers may have succeeded in killing them or making them disappear but were not able to silence them forever. The issues of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, electoral fraud, and corruption continue to haunt the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. And while they receive praise, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration continues to receive condemnation locally and internationally.

Recently, the New York-based Human Rights Watch added its voice to the various international statements of concern and condemnation of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration for the spate of political killings. The Supreme Court and three Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) generals have expressed their intent to act to contribute to efforts at putting a stop to these inhumane practices. The three generals are ready to testify in a Senate hearing to be sponsored by Sen. Antonio Trillanes on the involvement of the AFP in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances as well as in the massive fraud during the 2004 elections.

Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and COMELEC Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. – who has surpassed COMELEC Chair Leonardo Perez during the Martial Law years in terms of presiding over wide-scale fraud – may think that they got away with cheating during the 2004 and 2007 elections. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Exec. Sec. Eduardo Ermita, AFP Chief-of-Staff Hermogenes Esperon as well as retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan may think that they have gotten away with murdering and kidnapping political activists; while local warlords and syndicates may think that they could get away with murdering journalists. But for as long as the martyrs and victims cry out for justice, the perpetrators of these dastardly acts would never be able to rest. The calls for justice, freedom and democracy would ring louder and louder until those responsible are made to account by a people marching as one.(

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