To have victims of human rights violations numbered as their “labels” is becoming a trend, perhaps in order to either to easily recall them or simply convenient for journalists to write them by such.
Before Batasan 5 hit the headlines, we may already heard of the Abadilla 5, GenSan 3, Davao 5, Sagada 11 and the Davao 8. What is common is that the experiences of these persons are no different from each other. While we are aware of their group and numbers, little did we know about them, about their case and what already happened to them.
It has been ten years past when the Abadilla 5–persons accused in the killing of a former Philippine Constabulary Colonel– made the allegations of illegal arrest, detention and torture against the officers who arrested them. From then on, the officers involved have not been prosecuted and held accountable of their acts in Court. The victims also did not get government-sponsored medical and trauma treatment.
This is similar to torture victims GenSan 3 who were accused of having involvement of bombing a mall in April 2002 in General Santos City; Davao 5 of bombings in Davao City in April and March 2003 respectively; Sagada 11, a group of mostly minor Punks for allegedly raiding a detachment in Mankayan; and the Davao 8 over alleged involvement in rebel movement.
The message of what happened to them is more clear than numbers: Torture victims could not seek remedies and justice in our Court for lack of an enabling law against Torture, they are forced to face trial out of fabricated charges or forced confessions; they spend years on in jail arising from delayed adjudication of their cases in Court; our police and military men are arbitrarily using their authority and have not been prosecuted or held responsible for their acts; among others.
While this message is clear, little did we get strong response from the government and the people in it on how this matter are address effectively, adequately in order to prevent further occurrence of such violations.
For all we know, the proposed law against torture have been pending in the House of Representatives since the 8th Congress; the number of our court judges and prosecutors are way below of what is required to ensure proper investigation and speedy disposition of cases; and those police and military men accused have been either promoted, elected into political positions or have retired with “clear” human rights records instead.
Until these problems are not dealt with accordingly, more victims who may soon have their number is inevitable.
The culture of impunity is deeply rooted in the fabric of our society. But the efforts to improved our investigation, policing and prosecution system is completely negligible and far below of what is required.