First, it started with the poor, who were killed in their homes, in the streets, even in broad daylight. Not even our children were spared. Now, they are escalating to killing off those who speak and stand up for the victims!
Let none of us make a mistake. The death of 72-year-old activist priest Marcelito “Tito” Paez could be indicative of a dangerous escalation in this administration’s bloody and violent policy of “solving problems” through extrajudicial killings. They are now attempting to “solve” the uproar about human rights abuses and EJKs by killing those who sound the alarm.
This is unacceptable. And none of us should allow it to go unresolved and unpunished, and none of us should allow it to be the start of more to come.
It is alarming to note that, just the day before, Fr. Paez, a known human rights defender, helped secure the release of political prisoner Rommel Tucay, an organizer of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon in Nueva Ecija who was arrested by soldiers in March.
It is even more chilling to think that his death happened on the very same day that the President signed a proclamation classifying the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups.
All of this is disturbingly reminiscent of the reign of terror that earned General Jovito Palparan the tag “berdugo” or “butcher” during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In those days, anywhere that the “Berdugo” was assigned became a killing field, with a spate of human rights violations and EJKs leaving a bloody trail that leads to an apparent state policy to silence political activists. As a reward, he was promoted twice and praised during one of PGMA’s SONA.
It is eerie to consider that one of Gen. Palparan’s past stomping grounds was also Nueva Ecija, where Fr. Paez met his end.
Duterte once promised that Change is Coming. But of course, even there, he lied. All we see is a return of the old, violent and bloody tactics of his idols.
Is it any wonder though when we consider the fact that, during the same time that Palparan was sowing terror in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas, the Davao Death Squad was doing the same in Davao City?
Tama na ang patayan. Tigilan na ang pang-aabuso.
But this is what silence, ambivalence, dilly-dallying and politicking buys us: more killings. As I have said before, one death by extrajudicial killings is one too many. The death of one can quickly escalate to the death of thousands, and after that, the death of those who would defend the thousands. When your President is himself a self-professed mass murderer, only a fool would sit back and watch and wait for the “right time”.
The right time to defend human rights is the moment it comes under attack. Not a moment later. To wait and to fear acting is to lose the chance to act.
I hope that Fr. Paez’s death will not be in vain. I hope that his sacrifice will finally move the rest of our leaders – political, community and religious alike – and all of our countrymen into launching a proper outcry against the abuses and failures of this administration. ###