I am trying to understand why AFP Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon submitted my book, To Suffer thy Comrades, as evidence to the Melo Commission. Along with Rocamora's and Jalandoni's book, it supposedly "supported the military contention that it was the CPP-NPA that were behind the (political) killings" over the past five years.
My book was published in 2001, and it chronicled the CPP's internal violence in the 1980s, under which I myself suffered. It cannot possibly cover events after it was launched, unless I am gifted with prescience.
But obviously the logic has to do with establishing a pattern, i.e. the CPP-NPA demonstrated the capacity for brutality before, it is not impossible to imagine that they can still do it now. Perhaps. But then, we really need to give credit (or debit) where it is due. One has killed before, it doesn't necessarily follow that he did it again thereafter. It only remains in the possible, even probable. And for one to be sure, what we need is a credible probe.
Furthermore, the problem with all this is that we have a case where the pot and the pan are both calling each other black and greasy. The AFP and the CPP-NPA hold dismal human rights records, thus when one squeaks about violations, the other can easily squawk: "Look who's talking!" There is a credibility problem here. Do we choose between the lesser killer?
As the polarization and antagonism between both parties continue, along with the body count, we at PATH affirm all the more our neutrality; faithful only to universal human rights ideals and partial only to truth and justice. We continue to call for an independent investigation, one that would look into both State and non-State perpetrated violations. The UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other international authorities should play a role.
When the pot and the pan paint each other black, it's time for the kusinero to step in and scrub them both clean.
Reds killed over 1,200, Esperon testifies
By Fe Zamora
Posted date: September 19, 2006
ARMED FORCES Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon yesterday told an investigative commission that communist guerrillas had murdered more than 1,200 people over the past five years, most of them civilians.
Testifying before the commission headed by retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Melo, Esperon sought to deflect accusations that the security services were responsible for the surge in assassinations of leftist figures and journalists.
Leftist groups have blamed the security services for the murders.
Guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), killed 843 civilians and 384 soldiers or police officers in 1,130 attacks between January 2000 and May 2006, Esperon said.
"It was listed in our records that there were 384 (military and police) and 843 civilians (who) were slain and these were victims of liquidation by the CPP-NPA," Esperon said.
Esperon submitted a copy of Oplan Bushfire, reportedly a CPP document on a plan to purge the organization of suspected infiltrators.
He also turned over three books, "Breaking Through" by Joel Rocamora, "To Suffer Thy Comrades" by Robert Francis Garcia and "The Philippine Revolutionary Movement" by Luis Jalandoni of the communist-led National Democratic Front.
Esperon said the books supported the military contention that it was the CPP-NPA that were behind the killings.
The commission is principally looking into the murders of 118 members of the left-wing party-list group Bayan Muna since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.
Human rights groups estimate that in all, more than 700 people have been murdered by the security services since 2001, including lawyers, human rights workers, trade unionists and journalists. The Inquirer lists 250 assassinations.
Some of the killings have been blamed on units under Major General Jovito Palparan, who commanded the 7th Infantry Division before he retired last week.
Esperon testified that the AFP conducted an informal probe of the allegations against Palparan, who has yet to testify at the inquiry.
"We found nothing that could be attributed to him," he said.
To subject Palparan to an investigation would have distracted him from his duties battling the insurgents in Central Luzon, Esperon said. "That would be counterproductive to us."
He said there was also the "matter of timing," noting that Malacañang had already created the Philippine National Police Task Force Usig, the predecessor of the Melo Commission.
Coming up with a separate investigation "would be muddling" the probe conducted by Usig. "It would also not look good for us to be investigating ourselves," Esperon said.
On his second appearance before the Melo Commission, Esperon continued to defend Palparan, called the "butcher" by leftists. Palparan is scheduled to testify at the Melo Commission today.
Accusations only in media
Esperon’s security aides tried to stop Bayan Muna public information staffer Gian Paolo Oliveros and three others from observing the proceedings. But Melo said the hearings were open to the public.
Esperon maintained that all the accusations against Palparan were only made in the media.
"It’s easy to make accusations left and right," he said, stressing that so far, none of those who complained in the media had formally filed a complaint against Palparan.
Commission counsel Rogelio Vinluan confronted Esperon with the TF Usig report that of the 110 killings already investigated, six victims were killed by soldiers, 10 deaths were "linked" to the AFP, and 78 cases were still being investigated.
Esperon said the Armed Forces would look into the report.
Vinluan also took note of a column in the Inquirer by Amando Doronila about Palparan’s "reign of terror" in Central Luzon and the "inexplicable rise in the number of killings" wherever the general was assigned.
'Knowing the Enemy’
"It was Mr. Doronila’s opinion. I don’t know if there was enough data presented," Esperon said. He said the casualties could have been the result of the "many encounters" reported in the areas where Palparan was assigned.
Esperon also downplayed the military’s PowerPoint presentation, "Knowing the Enemy," which listed 32 progressive organizations, among them Bayan Muna, Sanlakas, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines as "communist fronts." Many of the victims of the killings were members of Bayan Muna.
"'Knowing the Enemy’ is a common lecture, a common module to get to know the enemy. It is used in classrooms and offered in different schools but not exactly with the same content," Esperon explained.
When Vinluan suggested that "correcting" the impression that Bayan Muna and other leftist groups were "communist fronts" could stop the killings, Esperon said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo should also "renounce his membership" in the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Ocampo, who was detained during martial law, served as spokesperson of the NDF during peace talks with the newly installed Aquino administration in 1986.