countering terror with terror,
Mistaken identities, justifications,
and the need to revisit Human Rights
and International Humanitarian law
Supposedly, this should been made in commemoration of Martial Law last September 21, however, this writer had made something important that made this writeup made late instead of its intended date.
At first, it seems that everyone is waiting to resolve issues related to the title, knowing that the today's Aquino administration is trying to make itself righteous in its standing, such as winning the peace as a substitute for winning a battle, of transparency in midst of todays issues, and even trying to acknowledge a shortcoming in which people had resorted to complaining if not criticizing a regime and the people behind the malices being shown.
However, there are those within the same order who had tried to block means to complete justice, especially of those who are victimized by those who acted in the name of the law; worse, there are those who enact are putting the law in their hands, acting rather "above of it", and justifying everything illegal if not for the state, perhaps for the "culprit".
Knowing that how wonder these people, especially those in uniform, are behind imprisoning certain personalities, extrajudicial killings, forced abductions and the like also wanted those actions to be justified- that in the guise of National Security, fierce "Anti-Communism", or "Anti-Terrorism", and even nostalgia for the Marcos dictatorship in the guise of "Discipline", had used certain actions regardless of being contrary to human rights.
Yet ironically, they also banner human rights, while at the same time, some amongst their ranks also oppose human rights to those being called "Enemies of the state."
That once, this writer had remembered certain comments in Facebook years ago and said that they are against human rights, especially to those who oppose certain policies, such as radicals, by saying:
"Terrorists are not Humans... Human rights dont apply to them... Catch 'em and kill 'em!"
or even say this to justify further, that may affect those who are simply criticizing, or innocent:
"Murderers, Rapists and any other Criminal don't deserve human rights. Its an abomination that they seem to get better treatment than the victims of crime. We pay to keep them in Jail, we feed them, pay for them to be released and pay for defence lawyers to defend them. ITS NOT ON!! Criminals need to be removed from society in a way it won't cost us to much."
"Human rights are GAY."
In order to justify that repression is a sign of strength such as a machismo one.
Obviously, these comments sound ridiculous knowing that they justify disregarding human rights all in favor of a stringent security measure that involved extrajudicial actions.
That somehow made the image of the state negative regardless of their justifications.
The Argentine experience
and its indirect relation to the Philippine situation
In Argentina, there is a rhetorical revice used in its judicial process disqualifying arguments that appear to morally equate violent political subversion with illegal repressive activities carried out by the state.
This idea, known in Spanish as "Teoría de los dos demonios" (Theory of two demons), tend to say that the military or any group allied to the state are rather trying to respond "terroristic" action of the enemy to their own concept of "terrorism."
That in the Philippines it is indirectly followed by the state in regards to maintaining National Security. For example, the Escalante massacre, made by the Philippine Constabulary during the Marcos Regime, was made primarily in response to the growing threat of rebellion in the province of Negros Occidental that was ought to be stopped, and yet these protesters, were rather simply invoking the right to protest against repression and demand social justice, as mandated in the universal declaration of human rights. Only to end being killed in the name of National Security and be justified their actions as rebellious and subversive especially in a province where a growing rebel presence becoming stronger those times.
Same as the actions laid during oplan Bantay Laya I and II of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Just like the earlier Operations of the past administrations, it had to disregard the agreements concerning human rights and international humanitarian law, and using the armed actions of the New People's Army as its justification to abduct or illegally arrest certain personalities such as critics, or even family members and to some degree, those arrested by mistaken identity.
However, the theory was often be vented upon, be attached to those who plead to support "national reconciliation", sometimes appealing to the Christian idea of "forgive and forget" yet not all are willing to accept it- knowing that the theory meant justifying revenge, especially to those who are victimized by the state.
Worse is that, the main criticism of the state's measures, is that how come a state is expected to enforce the law and respect human rights, even when repressing violent criminals that do not show such respect.
But speaking of "Violent criminals that do not show such respect", does it include those who are fighting for their beliefs? Such as those who, on their behalf had iron discipline amongst their ranks? Remember, both GRP and the NDF had agreed in a statute concerning Prisoners of War, and that includes observance to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, but do both observing it? The NDF, with its NPA had done so and being codified since they have their "Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention" that includes "Do not ill treat captives" and "Do not take liberties with women."
but how about the GRP, through its AFP? Some, if not few may observe a semblance of discipline and adherence to the rule of law, while most of them aren't, that somehow showed the ignorance in observing Human Rights in favor of overtly interpretation of National Security.
That somehow involves the near intentional use of terrorism to counter the enemy's in the countryside. Marag Valley for example, the military had to destroy the community at the valley in response to the ambushes and tactical offensives made by the rebels, same as disregarding Sagada as a "Peace Zone" knowing that the Rebels afford to take passage in it.
Using Denial and at the same time Justifying
"We have no political prisoners..." Thus said then President Ferdinand Marcos in regards to the issue about his regime having political prisoners according to a report made by the Amnesty International.
During the Martial Law period would say that captured insurgents, as well as political opponents are considered as "Political Prisoners" in which the president had insist not, and instead describing them as common criminals accused of certain criminal cases other than Subversion and Rebellion. Ninoy Aquino for instance was accused of Plaza Miranda bombing yet in fact he was an opponent the president himself.
But nowadays, despite recognizing the political status of certain personalities, of men and women imprisoned in various detention facilities around the country, the alibi made by Marcos continues as to see people who are fighting for their beliefs, whether armed or not, innocent or directly implicated, face prison for charges committed or not.
One of which was Ericson Acosta.
Known for his poetry and his contribution to Filipino contemporary culture, was arrested on his way to San Jorge town from Barangay Bay-ang proper around 10 am. There he was arrested without warrant by elements of the 34th IBPA led by 2nd Lt. Jacob Madarang.
Prior to the arrest, he was accompanied by a barangay official and was carrying only a laptop and some personal belongings. With threats, soldiers instructed Acosta’s companions from the barrio to carry on, since they were only interested with the “Tagalog” whom they suspected of being a high-ranking NPA rebel.
Acosta, whose unfamiliar appearance such as a thin, skinny one wearing shorts, tshirt and sporting a long hair and carrying a backpack with a laptop for his research on farmers and fisherfolk made the military accuse him as a rebel, given torture and imprisoned for months until its release due to the pressure of artists and personalities knowing his innocence despite his activism.
But unlike Acosta, who is well known in both activist and cultural circles, there are others who continue to languish, especially those who are imprisoned due to mistaken identities like the case of a security guard who was mistaken for a rebel leader. He's given torture and imprisoned to see not just actual political prisoners, but those who shared the same fate of being mistaken as rebels and hence undergone the same procedure just like those from the past where a head of state chose to deny than acknowledge his prisoners as more of political than criminal in their inclinations; and at the same time justifying their actions to the extent of fabricating like what happened at Acosta with someone planting a grenade in his bag and hence accusing him further of illegal possession of deadly weapon!
Since people had also condemned the violence of the guerrilla radical groups like the New People's Army, Alex Boncayao Brigade, and muslim groups like the Moro National Liberation Front or its "Islamic" counterpart, or even obviously terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf (the ends, the means, or both), they also feel that there are also atrocities committed by the Armed Forces and their associates, like the CAFGUs, CVOs, and even cultist groups especially during the Martial Law regime in 1972, Cory Aquino's Low Intensity Conflict and Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.
Knowing that they have a different moral status, ever since the state under Marital Rule had given the Armed Forces a degree of control to certain zones of control had also sought the means "terrorize" the citizenry by means of warrantless arrests especially due to mistaken identities, to much illegal ones like kidnapping civilians, forced disappearance, or illegal arrests without trial or recourse of habeas corpus.
Morong 43 for instance, they were being arrested with a questionable warrant of arrest as its basis, that somehow also deemed as illegal; yet the captors, despite using a questionable warrant, had to insist that they are members of the New People's Army and will do everything, even create fabricated means to justify their actions-that also make a number of them be fully acknowledged their commitment and expressed no regrets.
The examples said in this writeup may leave a series of questions how these happen, or how a state who has to observe a free flow of ideas rather aggravates existing problems such as using terrorism to counter terrorism the way Argentina, Indonesia had in its past.
And knowing that the state had trying to rally its people under a nationalistic pretense in curbing "terrorism", people are still opposing their moves as well, knowing that as more and more innocents, sympathizers, or combatants fighting for a real social change are killed by those who tries to do the former. Worse as they who tends to observe the rule of law are also the ones who are justifying that according to theirs a "dose of their own medicine."
The system may justify everything, including the past mistakes of their enemies that end up acknowledging their mistakes, while its culprits becoming their propagandists alongside certain criminals in uniform.
But still, like the final scene of Orapronobis, revenge may still be an option to those who can't accept the necessity of the courts, lobbying and the like, countering a demon who pulls everyone backwards.