Category Archives: Laws

Kill all criminals – Mayors

Apart from mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City, more and more local chief executives have now been openly endorsing the killing of criminals.

This trend of either justifying or impliedly giving acquiescence to kill allege criminal and all crime offenders have now also become the trend in General Santos City and Digos City, the cities which are also facing continuing incidents of killings of alleged criminals.

In March 28, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in Hong Kong has criticized the action of Pedro Acharon Jr., mayor of General Santos, for justifying the killings of alleged criminals as being perpetrated by their own group.

It expresses concern over Acharon’s statement as seriously undermining the fundamental of due process and obligation of the State for the protection of one person’s right against arbitrary deprivation of life.

Meanwhile, in April 21, mayor Arsenio Latasa of Digos City has openly endorses killing of criminals following the unabated incidents of robberies in his city.

He was quoted to have said publised in Sun.Star Davao: “Dili na ni madala og komedya-komedya, buot ipasabot nga kun kinahanglang patyon, patyon na. Wa man gihapo’y pulos ning mga tawhana kay puro kawatan man ni (sic)” (We could no longer take this as a joke. It means that if we need to kill them (criminals), kill them. They are useless anyway since they are all robbers.

The AHRC has since criticized these Mayors’ actions, particularly Duterte, in their previous statement regarding this issue.

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The hypocrisy of Manila’s Dirty Harry

Spraying red paint on the homes of people suspected of involvement in illegal drugs and openly endorsing the killing of alleged criminals are practices of the mayor of Manila, Alfredo Lim, earning him the reputation of being a “Dirty Harry.” He has shown neither mercy nor any notion of due process to this group of people, however. When he and his son Manuel recently got into similar trouble though, none of this unlawful harassment was evident.

Over the years, Mayor Lim has deliberately hidden the fact that his son has been using illegal drugs. Had his son not been arrested on March 15 for selling drugs and subsequently charged in court, it would not be known. While Mayor Lim and his son have obtained a certain level of protection for their actions, this same protection has not been afforded to other people and their other families whom the mayor has unjustly humiliated and accused without any form of due process. They have not been given an opportunity to defend themselves nor given any reasonable explanation why they are treated as condemned criminals in public.

Even worse is that the mere suspicion of a person’s involvement with illegal drugs is enough to incite others to murder him or her. It is already bad enough that suspects are deprived and stripped of their constitutional rights and not able to defend themselves before a court of law. Government officials, however, subvert their duty when they become advocates of extrajudicial executions. Their oath when they assume public office is to ensure that, in enforcing laws, their constituents should be equally treated and have equal protection before the law.

When criticized for spraying red paint on people’s homes, as it violates a person’s right to the presumption of innocence, Mayor Lim has defended his actions. He has argued that the presumption of innocence can be invoked only when a person is charged in court or during a trial. Meanwhile, he claims that spraying red paint on a person’s home is not against the law — when it is, of course, an unlawful act. The guilt of a person cannot be determined by a government official, especially one with such a deep bias and a non-existent notion of legality.

However, when it comes to his family, this mayor decides what treatment he, his son and his family deserve. Did he, upon learning of his son’s involvement with illegal drugs, spray his or his son’s home with red paint? He did not, for Mayor Lim’s family and his son have a certain level of protection and immunity from this unjust persecution and public humiliation.

This sudden respect for rights is not the case though for other families and their sons whose lives and security have been unnecessarily undermined and put at risk by Mayor Lim’s unlawful actions. While his son deserves to be presumed innocent and to have equal protection before the law, other people, even though they are his constituents, have not been afforded these rights.

The extent of fear and public humiliation that Mayor Lim has long instilled in the community since becoming Manila’s mayor against people he has unjustly accused and humiliated for allegedly being involved with illegal drugs or allegedly being criminals is so deep that some of them have had to move from their homes. Staying would mean they would suffer humiliation every day as condemned criminals, as determined by the mayor. Do they deserve to suffer this consequence based merely on the judgment of Mayor Lim, who has indirectly encouraged even the murder of these people should they not mend their ways or migrate to other places? This is the tough line he has repeatedly told his constituents.

Because of his hatred for alleged criminals, especially those who commit serious crimes, and his disdain for the justice system, Mayor Lim feels justified in initiating his shoot-to-kill policy, as he explained during a radio interview in August 2007: “The order involves only those engaged in heinous crimes, like robbery with homicide, gang rape and those who had killed policemen before. I don’t like policemen being beaten to the draw and shot.” He said he hates attending burial rites for policemen killed on duty. “Definitely, it’s better to bury criminals than policemen,” he said.

When interviewed about his son’s arrest, however, he said, “I’ll not lift a finger to help him. Let it be if he’ll be sentenced (to jail); so be it.” His son at least will have the opportunity to make his defense in court before being convicted and sentenced. His son’s family also was fortunate not to have been publicly humiliated or persecuted by having their house sprayed with red paint prior to his arrest, even after Mayor Lim learned his son had been using illegal drugs.

Other people have been murdered or sentenced without any notion of due process and presumption of innocence. Once accused by the mayor, they instantly become undesirable people with no rights.

Mayor Lim also has not given any explanation why he and his family deliberately hid from the public his son’s illegal drug activities. A public official owes an explanation to his constituents, but none thus far has been forthcoming. He also has never bothered to explain the double standards he has employed, for his own house and that of his son have not been painted red; this “Dirty Harry” is not so dirty when an incident is so close to home. This merely reveals the hypocrisy of Manila’s “Dirty Harry.”

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The impotence of the Manila coup

The short-lived revolt in Manila last week, led by a soldier-turned-senator, will be added to the Philippines’ history of dozens of coup attempts since democracy was restored in 1986. All of these military-led attempted coups were crushed.

Unlike the recent soldier-led coup, the uprising that ousted President Joseph Estrada in January 2001, under allegations of massive corruption, was led by the people. Estrada was convicted for plunder earlier this year.

The notion that Estrada’s ouster would eventually put an end to corruption, and that new leadership with high moral ascendancy would take his place, has unfortunately not occurred. Years later, the new leadership has failed to improve the lives of Filipinos and to provide meaningful change.

Many believe that the present administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is even “worse” than Estrada’s, with the current government facing serious allegations of corruption amid a deteriorating human rights record that pushes the Filipino people to the depths of frustration. Some Filipinos living and working abroad even maintain that life was better previously.

However, the country’s long history of military coups and People Power activism undoubtedly demonstrates that deep-rooted and systemic problems cannot be solved merely by a change of leadership. No attempt by soldiers to take power or topple the civilian government can succeed in addressing the problems underlying the coup attempt.

This claim is not a theory but a reality based on years of experience by Filipinos themselves. The call for meaningful change begins from the people who suffer and are directly affected by the country’s depressing conditions — not by soldiers espousing coups and soldiers-turned-politicians who face criminal charges in court. Change is not effected by replacing a condemned leader with a new one, be it because of mere dislike or dissatisfaction with the current leader, nor does it happen overnight.

Meaningful change develops over time by strengthening the basic institutions of the country, including the police, judiciary and other civilian institutions. These institutions have the constitutional right and duty to provide practical solutions to practical problems. Such solutions will not materialize through empty rhetoric by soldiers or coup leaders who claim their actions are based on the “people’s mandate.”

Thinking they can decide the fate of the Filipino people based on their own judgment is not only an insult to the people’s intellect but reflects complete disrespect for the country’s institutions and the people’s right to take part in the country’s affairs. Any attempt to weaken or dismantle the country’s basic institutions through coups, mutinies or other illegal acts, without the consent of the people directly affected by these actions, is a threat to democracy.

It is a fact that there is widespread discontent within the country. However, discontent should be expressed according to the law and by nonviolent means unless there is no space for lawful action and the government is irrationally consuming the people’s lives.

If deep frustrations justify illegal and violent action, then Burma’s democratic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi undoubtedly has the right to resort to violence. Yet after many years of incarceration and tremendous abuses inflicted on her people by the military junta, she remains resilient in pushing her cause, and has earned worldwide sympathy and understanding. Indeed, her detention has become a symbol of both oppression and hope for democracy in Burma.

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Video as element of crime

In this article “DoJ chief: PNP can’t force ABS-CBN to give raw video, the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed had it not because of the video footages of television station covering the standoff at a Makati hotel, they would have not been able to file charges of rebellion and inciting to rebellion against those supposedly involved.

As they continue their investigation, they sent subpoena to media institutions, particularly the ABS-CBN, who has video footages that could help help in identifying those civilians involved. The police made it clear in their statement;

“We could not have charged the civilians without the ANC footages. The reason why there were 14 who were released, it’s because these 14 did not appear in the footages,” Virgilio Pablico, CIDG chief legal officer

It’s clear. The civilians who have been charged for rebellion are seen in the video, and those who were not seen were off the hook. In filing of their complaint, presumably those video footages taken by television stations are given heavy weight in determining that there was supposedly an element of crime of “rebellion”.

Okay, if it is so, does it mean that the television journalists who are reporting the events are as perhaps could be held for rebellion because they are in the video? How about the person who’s taking the video, is his/her presence at the scene though not seen in the video also be liable for rebellion? Does it prove conspiracy either?

So, if video footages should be given weight in determining the element of crime, why not include the passersby, jeepney drivers, onlookers, or even the police and military themselves who are seen in the area assaulting the hotel. Or, the stunned hotel staffs and guest who are running out of the hotel for fear of their life?

This mental reasoning by the chief of the police’ investigating body reflect how completely irrational if not lunatic the police are in investigating cases. The manner of their investigation was worst; they ignore the witnesses or circumstances that could have strengthen their case present in their area. What they are telling us: without the video we can’t do anything, and this “coup” plotters would escape from law.

Putting persons accountable for the criminal acts is of course their duty, but the manner that should have been taken in establishing whether or not a person would be held accountable for violating the penal code should also be according to lawful and rational principles. This was not the case though.

Instead, even during the aftermath of the standoff, what they did was to arrest all those inside the hotel altogether–never mind whether those arresting them had personal knowledge or had witnessed of a crime had been committed under the criminal procedures on rules of warrant less arrest–which instead resulted to the arrest of journalists covering the standoff.

In your country, do police do this and is the process of determining an element of crime in filing charges was also done in this way?

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Migrants and their children treated subhumans

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Largely migration is one person’s option when opportunities and chances of good life from his/her country of origin in dim.

But in some countries, for instance Burma, migration is not only motivated by the lack of opportunities back home but also a means to escape from persecution by the state authorities from whom they came from. The person who are supposed to protect their rights and ensure their wellbeing are the same persons responsible of shattering ones lives into bits of pieces.

Apart from being forced to leave from their home land for varying reasons, their descendants as well have had to suffer the consequences of their parent’s migration of their succeeding life ahead. The life of migrant’s siblings have already been decided even before the latter gains reason to defend themselves.

In Thailand, pregnant migrant workers has been threatened with deportation by the government. Migrant workers there are largely coming from Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Thai government unjustifiably considers this pregnant women as threats to national security, and that it requires action from them.

Apart from that, the supposed basic necessities for others; for instance use of mobile phone, motorcycle, medication for sick workers, amongst others things, is unlawful for migrant workers in Thailand, particularly in the border.

I was told that in Mae Sot one time a Burmese factory worker injured herself but refused to be taken to the hospital. The reasons: she has no proper documentation and the hospital bill would be charged from her meager salary. Not only she is afraid of being deported back to troubled Burma, she too had to endure her injuries for lack of any options. For her to suffer such was unthinkable for me but this however has become the way of life for migrants there.

In Hong Kong, the future of siblings of migrant couples are uncertain. The Hong Kong government do not consider giving either citizenship nor permanent residence to siblings of migrant workers who had nature of employment as domestic workers. These babies in effect would then be considered as undocumented alien and are vulnerable to deportation perhaps by the government.

In Japan, even siblings of migrant workers whose father are Japanese could not even obtain citizenship of their fathers unless the latter acknowledged it is his child. A large number of Japinos or Filipino-Japanese have been deprived of rights and welfare over this migration policies. This policy, however, has given more opportunity for Japanese fathers to exploit the female migrant workers.

This is however goes beyond the issue of morality amongst Japanese fathers but it’s a repressive policies depriving fundamental rights to children, who, in the first place caught in the middle and left without choice. Some siblings with Japanese have even experienced of being deported back to the Philippines and left to starve there.

Migrants and their children should not suffer this.

Photo taken from: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org

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Dictators can never be “benevolent”

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This is in reaction to the letter to the editor: “Filipinos can learn from Musharraf

First, the late Ninoy Aquino should have not been compared with Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto. Though they both originate from influential rich class, they could not be similar. And, it is also wrong to suggest the situation in Pakistan could have been similar in the Philippines had Ninoy not been murdered.

Second, the Congress should have not given Medal of Achievement in 2005 to Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It was a complete stupidity if not lunacy for members of a duly elected members of Congress to confer award on a person who seized power in a military coup and declare himself as both President and Chief of Staff of Pakistan’s armed forces.

To discuss whether or not the award should be recalled is worthless, but declaring it null and void giving explanation why is it so, would perhaps help members of the Congress in 2005 to regain their credibility and intellectual judgement.

Third, there can never be “benevolent” dictator. Weighing the country’s economic progress as basis of good leadership is an old school notion which had been exploited by dictators, authoritarian, police state, and other countries who had histories of tremendous abuses. These are the leaders, to mention a few, Chile’s Pinochet, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Indonesia’s Suharto, Marcos and others who perpetrate large scale corruption and murders.

Democracy does not develop overnight yet it matures over the time . It heavily depends on how established a country’s institutions are, particularly the independence of the judiciary. The strength of democracy depends on the strength of its legal institution. That is why Musharaff systematically targeted judges and lawyers because, as he admits, they are blocking his way, and justifies his lunacy on pretext of saving the nation by stepping aside democracy.

Marcos too used this lines when he declared Martial Law on pretext of saving the nation from escalating communist insurgency in 1971.

It is sad that while thousands of lawyers arrested and judges place under house arrest all over Pakistan, there are still squabbles like this. Worst, to suggest that the Filipinos could learn from a dictator and self-criticized our own democracy.

I’m sure, had today been Marcos regime, or I’m in Burma and China, this letter to the editor I am writing would have not been published. Or, this blog would have been tracked down by intelligence agents.

And this is what is happening in Pakistan today, laws and ordinances are imposed to silence critics, government seized operation of media outlets, journalist are systematically attacked.

Our democracy is maturing that any acts like this would face tremendous resistance from Filipinos, I believe.

Photo by http://www.mtholyoke.edu

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Of laws and human rights

Our country is perhaps one of the many countries is Asia which recognise respect for human rights in their Constitution. While the Bill of Rights of our 1987 Constitution clearly stipulates these rights entitlement, an average Filipino see it exist merely on paper if asked based on their daily life experience.

How would you make them believed that indeed we have the right to freedom of expression, assemly and against torture, among others, when the policemen almost daily are seen bashing and beating protesters to violently disperse them.

This certain level of immunity and impunity by the policemen, by not holding them accountable and prosecuted for their arbitrary acts, ensues a deep-rooted fear amongst the Filipinos. It is expected that most likely, if not all times, people with grievances do away of confronting policemen out of fear.

On televisions, we see arrested persons, in particular protesters continously being beaten by police with batons and truncheons despite having them subdued. While we recognise the police role to contain unruly protesters, does it subsequently give them immunity to such acts and not to hold them accountable?

It is frigthening that what Filipinos are experiencing are completely contrary to what our Constitution stipulates. Our policemen and those in government are perhaps to clever that they could even justify this violation of absolute rights.

Human rights requires articulation no more, but an effective implementation and to hold the government accountable for its acts, failure and inaction. Violation of rights, in particular torture, is totally unacceptable in any circumtances. The government acknowledges this in accordance with the human rights standard.

Until we acknowledge that implementation of rights instead of mere articulation is a core point of realising human rights development, we wouldn’t go any step further.

We’ll always slide back to what we were, what we have always been, what we have already fought for over and over again – as what we are nowadays experiencing. After all, change of leadership is important but perhaps secondary if the government’s system and the people in itself is so defective.

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