Recto laments ‘pandemic of unsolved killings’; calls for end of ‘dirty war,’ ‘death squads’
MANILA, Philippines— Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Thursday called for an end to the “dirty war” and “death squads” as he lamented the “pandemic of unsolved killings” in the Philippines.
“The dirty war should end and the death squads stopped if we want to spare our democracy from lasting damage that would take generations to fix,” Recto said in a statement amid a series of killings in the country involving policemen.
Nine activists were killed in simultaneous police and military operations in the Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal provinces last Sunday while the mayor of Calbayog City, Samar province, Mayor Ronaldo Aquino, was slain also by policemen the following day.
“This epidemic of unsolved killings has rocked our people’s faith in our justice system. It is bleeding from a thousand wounds caused by assassins’ bullets,” Recto went on.
“Every time a lawyer is killed, a judge waylaid, an activist executed, a mayor ambushed, a slum teenager murdered, an agent of the state silenced, it strengthens the perception that justice is elusive and crime does pay,” he said.
Recto feared this “mass erosion of faith in the rule of law” would “drive desperate people to take the law into their own hands.”
“What is happening on the ground is that killings done with impunity encourage and embolden copycats. Soon we will see the privatization of justice and the boom of the murder-for-hire industry. Bakit pa nga ba ihahabla, kung mas mabilis ang bala?”
“That, I fear, is the greatest damage to society, and the greatest threat to our children’s future, where they will have to live in fear because the democratic guarantee of ‘justice for all’ is gone,” he further said.
Recto also stressed the importance of having a diversity of ideas and the need for the opposition to serve as watchdogs against excesses.
Life and liberty are precious, and activism is not terrorism, he said.
In fact, he said, the government should side with activists as they fight for better wages, and campaign for decent housing — the very same things it has vowed to fight for the people.
“Yes, the government should fight with all its might against armed combatants. But in the peaceful contest of ideas, it is unfair for the state to bring guns to a policy fight,” said the senator.
“Democracy is a large, big-tent arena that has a place for all, even hecklers on the stands,” Recto added.
Even the United Nations said it was “appalled” by the apparently arbitrary killing of the nine activists.
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