April 5, 2012
Pauline Gidget Estella
National Deputy Secretary General
On Beng Hernandez’s 10th death anniversary
Campus journalists challenge Aquino gov’t to end injustice and impunity
For every journalist, there’s nothing nobler than fulfilling his responsibility to deliver the truth. In fact, the Guild’s slogan “to write is already to choose” underscores this duty, the duty to report the truth and to stand for the people. On her 10th death anniversary, Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez, former vice president for Mindanao of College Editors Guild of the Philippines and Deputy Secretary General of human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, we are reminded of our task to expose social realities, including the state’s fascism and repression. Hernandez’s case proves the reality that exposing the truth pierces a bullet in journalists’ heads simply because they chose the side of the people.
It is, in fact, known to many Filipinos that journalists in the country are prone to extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations. Hernandez was killed by members of the 12th Special Forces company while she was conducting a fact-finding mission in Arakan Valley, Cotabato. She would have been 33, had the military not neutralized her under the false assumption that she was a member of the New People’s Army.
The case fleshed out two important points: first, the military equates progressiveness with being an armed rebel, and second, the government does not pay any attention to the hundreds of victims of human rights violations, what with the 10 years of injustice in Hernandez’s case. After all, what can we expect from a government that perpetrates the killings?
Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee released a decision holding the Philippine government as responsible for the death of Hernandez. The then Arroyo administration failed to prosecute the perpetrators despite overwhelming military culpability, according to the decision. Take note that the decision held the government as guilty. It is not an accusation, it is, for the committee, a certainty.
The decision should have served as an impetus for the Aquino government to act on Hernadez’s case. However, more than a year has passed, but no justice has been served. We even doubt if Aquino knows who Hernandez is, or was even aware that she was killed by elements of the military.
Though charges were already filed against the murderers, the terror of impunity and injustice still linger for journalists, progressive groups, and normal civilians alike. As of today, there were already 12 journalists killed within the first quarter of 2012, in addition to the numerous untallied other forms of human rights violations. All of which remain unresolved.
Pens and guns
Meanwhile, the Aquino government’s priority of optimizing the country’s military forces through joint military exercises with US will have a great impact on the state of human rights in the country. Let us remember that the overstaying of US troops in the country has led to numerous human rights violation and rape cases. This April, 6,000 US troops will arrive in the country for the Balikatan exercises, which is part and parcel of its objective to establish military presence. Military presence is necessary to ensure economic supremacy, especially at a time when US is suffering under a financial crisis.
We challenge the Aquino government’s sincerity to its promise of delivering genuine change, of prioritizing human rights. There is no other way to show sincerity than freeing all political prisoners, and being decisive in delivering justice for the victims of all extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations. ###
JUSTICE FOR BENG HERNANDEZ! JUSTICE FOR ALL!
END STATE FASCISM!
NO TO US INTERVENTION!
US TROOPS OUT NOW!