I was planning on writing something inspirational to close this year but the recent headlines in the Philippines have made a lot of Filipinos — not only in the Philippines, but here in the United States and elsewhere in the world — unsettled.
ABS-CBN News reported on Thursday, December 28: “Two people died while two others were wounded after policemen and village guards fired at the wrong vehicle while chasing a shooter in Mandaluyong City.”
This is the part of the report that has been troubling: “Law enforcers mistook an AUV that was carrying shooting victim Jonalyn Ambaon for the getaway vehicle of her assailant,” ABS-CBN News quoted Senior Supt. Moises Villaceran Jr., Mandaluyong City police chief.
ABS-CBN News further reported that “police investigators did NOT find firearms at the victim’s vehicle, which was riddled with bullet holes. The victims tried opening their vehicle door and shouted that they were in an emergency but this did not stop the gunfire, according to one of their kin.”
This news is but part of the disturbing fact that under the Duterte administration, a lot of lives have been lost under the war on drugs, in the hands of law enforcers who are supposed to protect people and follow the rule of law. This news is a testament to that alleged culture of violence and impunity that has been denounced by people all over the world.
Looking forward to “real change” in 2018, and believing in the good intentions of President Rodrigo Duterte, allow me to share this open letter of appeal posted by my good friend and tireless Fil-Am community leader Ago Pedalizo on social media:
An Urgent Appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte
Malacanang Palace, 1000 Jose P Laurel Sr, San Miguel, Manila,
Metro Manila, Philippines
The Philippines has recognized the importance of human rights when it voted in favor of adopting United Nations’ 1948 Resolution to promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Filipino American human rights advocates in the United States subscribe to these principles and they can be a powerful force for good.
The Philippines placed promoting human rights at the center of the government’s framework of principles and policies. Promoting human rights and democratic governance was embodied in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines.
The framers of the constitution also created the Commission on Human Rights to protect the human rights of all persons within the Philippines, as well as of Filipinos residing abroad as a response to the gross violations of human rights of the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1981.
Respected Nationalist, Jose W. Diokno, as chairman of the Philippine Presidential Committee on Human Rights advocated to internalize reverence for human rights through vigilance like research and education on violations of human rights.
Amnesty International recently published reports about the extrajudicial killings of over 7,000 persons suspected of dealing in illegal drugs or being simply drug addicts since you took office, with a third of these credibly attributed to actions by the PNP and/or state actors.
The U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Human Rights Report also stated that “police and unknown vigilantes have killed more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers and users’’ in the Philippines between July and December 2016, a period during which extrajudicial killings “increased sharply’’; and allegedly undertaken by vigilantes, security forces, and insurgents.
You promised to kill 100,000 drug dealers and addicts, and as president, have repeated these numbers and even ten times this number—contrary to our democratic processes in which made it possible for you to become President of the Philippines. Incitement to violence and discrimination is prohibited under international law.
The right to life is the most important human right of all, and is a fundamental right of all living persons. Enforcement of the Philippine laws is your sworn duty. Police must apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force, and carry out their duties in a way that ensures full respect for human rights, among them the right to life, liberty and security of all persons
The unlawful and deliberate killing carried out by order of officials or with the state’s complicity or acquiescence is an extrajudicial killing and is a crime under international law. Your administration must investigate and prosecute allegations of extrajudicial executions.
We ask you:
• To condemn all extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings and call on law enforcement officials to abide strictly by international law and standards on the use of force;
• To ensure prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all reports of use of lethal force by the police, extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings;
• To ensure that those responsible are brought to justice through a fair trial process;
• To provide programs to rehabilitate drug addicts which is a proven way to stem illegal drug trafficking and usage.
In the loving spirit of the Christmas season, we thank you for your kind attention to these matter of grave importance to us and our people.
Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP) by Tim McGloin and Paul Bloom
Filipino American Human Rights Alliance – Chicago (FAHRA-Chicago) by Jerry Clarito and Juanita S. Burris, Co-Chairperson
Filipino American Human Rights Alliance – Los Angeles (FAHRA-LA) by Art Garcia
Filipino American Human Rights Alliance – San Francisco (FAHRA-SF) by Ago Pedalizo
Filipino Community Journalists of Chicago
Justice for Filipino-American Veterans (JFAV)
Mariano A. Santos, Member of the Knights of Rizal
HAPPY AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR TO ALL!
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos