“Super Task Force Kapayapaan” (Peace) is the military’s grand plan for Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 30, 2008. Part of the event’s preparation is a human rights seminar for the 6,000 police officers who’ll keep the peace and order of Manila during the president’s speech.
Although there’s no serious threat of turbulence, the military couldn’t take any chances. The government is poised to mobilize a gargantuan display of security: a good number of men summoned from other regions of the country, to key points of the metropolis— a move only GMA and her supporters could exactly explain why.
But one can guess what’s in the poor people’s mind. These security forces and their intimidating gears will guard protest landmarks of the past such as the Batasan Pambansa, EDSA Shrine, Legarda, Bustillos, J.P Laurel, Claro M. Recto, Liwasang Bonifacio, Mediola Bridge, Malacanang Palace, and the US Embassy. The presence of 6,000 troops acts both ways— as protection and intimidation. As the chance of mayhem rises with discontent, the need to show military force ever increases.
The country struggles to show its commitment to protect people’s freedom in the wake of economic uncertainty, unresolved killings and unchecked human rights violations. In near oblivion, the sensational Kuratong Baleleng case remained a bloody crime puzzle since 1995. Amidst denials, police officers were accused of the brutal killing of 11 suspected thieves. There was the unsolved “rub-out” of 3 RCBC bank “robbers” in Tanauan, Batangas in May, 2008.
The police Traffic Management Group killed three suspected car robbers in an alleged shoot-out in Ortigas in 2005. Bubby Dacer’s family hadn’t stopped pointing on Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the then chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission thought to be the brains behind the murder.
The US Department of State found in 1999 that the Filipino security forces were responsible for extra-judicial killings, torture, violence, disappearances, intimidations, and abusive arrests. The Commission of Human Rights (CHR) chief Leila de Lima summed up the outrageous record saying, ”the police is the #1 violator of human rights.” She recognized the importance of an unrelenting campaign against injustice when she affirmed the role of CHR:
“For as long as necessary, we will continue to issue these statements on violations specific to law enforcement agents, such as illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, EJKs (extra-judicial killings) and even the indiscriminate parading of suspects to the media, a practice which, I must note with much chagrin, has not stopped.” Inquirer (07/15/08, Papa, A)
Sadly, the poor record of human rights isn’t the only issue the Filipinos must fight for. With Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo delivering SONA, the public doesn’t expect anything decisively new to bring relief to their problems. Instead, the people anticipate her repeat appeals for calm and resilience, beside her trusted military defenders, in the midst of worsening economic conditions.
The public feels unease and disappointment for the promised “strong republic” which GMA hasn’t delivered. The Filipinos seem feeble and tired in their complaints. They’re busy lining up for rice, seeking work, and dreaming where they would go in case the worst of the tempest come. In contrast to the costly SONA the government is preparing for, the people are feeling the pinch of spending for mass actions, protests, and rallies—many may not even have cash to buy gasoline for a ride to EDSA.
The burgeoning hardness of the day can only make them stretch their optimism. They hope the window of opportunity to solve their problems hasn’t been totally shut tight. =0=