What the European Union should do on killings

Jun. 30, 2007


I’m pretty sure the EU’s head of delegation to the Philippines, Alistair MacDonald, was not only referring to how the image of the Philippines in the international community is being battered because of all these extrajudicial killings. I’m sure he said more than that; in fact, this image thing is probably not even the crux of his statement on Friday, when he presented to the press the EU’s recommendations on how to end the atrocities.

But since media reports have zeroed in on this and since EU officials, in fact, mentioned it, let me add my two cents’ worth, especially because much of the official reaction we get has always been about how the killings are damaging our image around the world. This mindset is offensive on many counts. Let me cite two.

One, it trivializes the suffering of the victims and their families. Their lives have been turned upside down by the brutality — and all we care about is how people in other countries perceive us?

Second, it shapes official response to the killings. Indeed, it gives the Arroyo administration a way to evade responsibility.

And the official response has always been that all of this — the killings, the atrocities, the international attention — are the product of propaganda by the left and the government’s critics, as articulated by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

Instead of actually addressing the problems (the state’s encouragement of extrajudicial killings, the failure to prosecute, etc.), the Arroyo administration has decided on a tit-for-tat propaganda response to counter this alleged propaganda offensive by the left.

To say that the military is in denial, as UN rapporteur Philip Alston famously said early this year, misses the point, at best, and, at worst, suggests that what is happening — the death, torture and disappearance of hundreds — is not policy, that this is merely an oversight, a failure of the military to police its ranks.

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