Letters to the Editor: We stop asking “how many more?”
IT HAS BEEN three years since hard-hitting broadcaster and environmental advocate Dr. Gerry “Doc Gerry” Ortega was murdered on January 24. When we think of that fateful day, we only had one question in our minds: What then now? As if we are facing a blank wall.
The particular case of Doc Gerry had almost everything that is mostly lacking with that of other similar cases of extra-judicial killings. It has all the ingredients of a very strong case. It had suspects and credible witnesses, it had documented evidences and paper trails. There were extant recordings of Dr. Ortega from his radio program, hard-hitting commentaries and exposés pointing at the Reyeses of being deep in to corruption, environmental destruction and mining activities in the province of Palawan.
However, as if these were not enough, as the case progress or un-progress, a suspect had died suddenly of kidney failure. Another mysteriuosly died while in prison. The authorities concluded suicide as the cause of death discounting any foul play. The gunman was sentenced to life imprisonment, yet the Court of Appeals has indicted the Reyes brothers. On the basis of technicality, the court tagged them masterminds to the dastardly crime. Unfortunately, they escaped, are now on the loose and become fugitives. Nothing was done to investigate and punished their collaborator and accessories in evading the law. It has now been three years since.
It can be recalled that the Philippine National Police and the government launched a much announced manhunt against the Reyeses. With huge bounty on their heads, they were included in the so-called “Big 5” fugitives. Lumped together with the Reyeses was retired Gen. Jovito Palparan, the primary suspect to the abduction and enforced disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. Again, what then? Perhaps, they were that big enough on plain sight. Their shadows cast and loomed over the Aquino government probably blinding its sight to deliver any amount of justice. The case now turned cold.
The case of Doc Gerry’s murder now suffers the same fate as that of thousands cases of political killings still awaiting justice. The neglect on the part of the government in solving these crimes has cast off any semblance of interests in closing this chapter of our history. The lack of progress in the pursuit against perpetrators of killings has bore the state of committing injustice and is now main accesory to the vicious system of impunity.
Without doubt, the Aquino government could have punctured the culture of impunity pervading this land if only in this particular case of Ortega killing it opted at all cost to deliver justice. The families of thousand nameless victims may have found a little hope and something to rally with if this really happened. But alas, impunity remains and the Aquino government has done nothing to rectify it.
Meanwhile, the perpetrators walk in our midst. The Reyeses even have the temerity to mock the law by posting fiesta greetings in Palawan. And the likes of Palparan reportedly attending public events and gatherings. If only the Aquino government look in the right places so as to give intelligence and detection its right meaning in the first place. Then they can justify its huge fundings.
Of the 152 killed since Pres. Aquino assumed office in June 2010, we can only name a few who barely made it or mentioned in the news. We can also count with our fingers how few cases were filed in various courts. If we measure how many have attained justice under the Aquino government – none. Without let up more journalists and activists will be killed under this regime. On the third day of 2014, an anti-mining advocate was gunned down in Maco, Compostela Valley. We dread the day we stop counting.
Every day that justice is delayed is justice denied. We wouldn’t turn a blind eye in every incident of killing, enforced disappearance, torture and other forms of human rights violations. We will not tolerate impunity. We stop asking “how many more?” We demand a stop to extra-judicial killings and put an end to impunity. Under its continuing term, we hold the Aquino government accountable to every political killings perpetrated against the people.
#1 Maaralin cor. Matatag Sts. Brgy. Central
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