International Reactions Fail to Stop Killings and Disappearances

Dec. 23, 2006

(First of three parts)

A couple in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija took their own lives in October 2006 because they could not bear anymore days of torture by government soldiers. The couples suicide shows the level by which alleged military atrocities have reached and the sheer helplessness of reported targets of political persecution.


Early morning of Oct. 11, 2006, Librado and Martina Gallardo gathered five of their children, who were in the house at that time in Barangay Conversion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Their farewell words were portentous: Alagaan nyo ang mga kapatid nyo (Take care of your younger siblings). All were in tears.

Two hours later, the couple was found sprawled on the ground, barely breathing. The children frantically called their brother Rico, who was on his way to the forest to haul charcoal, and told him their parents were dying after taking pesticide. Theirs being a remote village, it took them two hours to find a tricycle that would bring them to the hospital more than an hour away. Librado and Martina died before reaching the hospital.

Two days before, the couple had been held and accused by soldiers of being supporters of the New Peoples Army (NPA). Martina and Librado a lay leader of the United Methodist Church in Conversion were tortured for the succeeding couple of days.

On Oct. 10, the soldiers told Librado, already bruised and beaten, that he would be killed the following day if he did not surrender an M-16 rifle and P40,000 which his relatives say he knew nothing about. His whole family would be killed as well, he was further told.
Choice between two ways

For Librado and Martina, it was a choice between two ways to die. If they showed nothing to what the soldiers were asking, they would be shot. They took their own lives.

The suicide of the Gallardo couple shows the extent by which the human rights situation in the Philippines has deteriorated. Mounting cases of extra-judicial killings and forced abductions have established a reign of fear particularly among villages suspected by the military of coddling communist guerrillas. Fear is what counter-insurgency doctrines are supposed to instill in order to deprive suspected enemies of the state of their mass support.

The politically-motivated killings in the Philippines have become internationalized somewhat, drawing expressions of concern and denunciations from reputable rights watchdogs, major church organizations, lawyers groups and even a few foreign governments and multinational business groups. At least two governments, those of Finland and Japan, have warned that economic aid to the Philippine government would henceforth be contingent on its human rights record.

Despite the international reactions, the Arroyo administration and its military could not be expected to admit to the killings if indeed they are found to be the perpetrators. Instead, they have blamed the armed Left for the incidents who, government spokespersons claim, would then attribute these to the government to discredit its leadership. Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo has promised to investigate the cases but so far, none of the families of the victims or organizations that have taken up their cause is cooperating, preferring instead to bring the issue to international justice such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva and the prestigious Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) in The Hague.

A similar complaint has also been filed by the labor center, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) with the International Labor Organization (ILO), also in Geneva, on behalf of trade union activists and leaders who have also been summarily executed.
Human rights report

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