Open letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima

November 7, 2014

Less than two years remain of the Benigno S. Aquino presidency, and you have been with the Department of Justice for over four years.LIHAM icon

When you were appointed as Justice Secretary, from being Chair of the Commission on Human Rights, we entertained a glimmer of hope that human rights cases would move forward, despite the immense systematic and structural hurdles in the country’s justice system. With the passing of time, however, we and the human rights violations victims and their families, saw our hopes diminished. Instead, we now come to feel extreme disappointment, if not righteous indignation, over the slow progress of many human rights cases.

In the case of the two missing UP students, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, we now feel a deep sense of dread over the possibility that Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. will not be made accountable. Various groups and individuals, both here and abroad, opposed Palparan’s transfer to the Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, yet the public prosecutors assigned by your office were clearly instructed not to support the motion of the private prosecutors to transfer Palparan to a regular jail facility. Without the support from the DOJ prosecutors, the Court denied the said motion last Monday, October 20.

We are appalled and indignant that the DOJ has assumed the role of protecting Palparan, by refusing to support the just demand of the mothers of Sherlyn and Karen. This clearly illustrates the prejudice of the Aquino administration on a very important issue of justice – that of the ensuring that no special treatment be accorded, especially for those accused of heinous crimes against the People of the Philippines. With this move, the prosecution of Gen. Palparan is definitely in jeopardy.

We likewise lament the slow progress in other human rights cases, despite the task force formed by the Aquino administration through Administrative Order 35. Among the cases are:

a) The extrajudicial killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Datu Jimmy Liguyon, and town councilor Fernando Baldomero;

b) The massacres of botanist Prof. Leonard Co and his companions Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo, and of anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and sons Jordan and John Mark;

c) Civil case of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines vs human rights violations of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo;

d) The killings of Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente and Catholic priest Rev. Cecilio Lucero; and

e) Torture and civil cases of health workers known as Morong 43.

Under President Aquino, the human rights situation remains worrisome, to say the least.  Political killings go on as the President himself implements his own version of a counter-insurgency program, the Oplan Bayanihan, that engenders the continuing human rights violations and impunity and is no better than his predecessor’s Oplan Bantay Laya.

We are thus constrained to write to you to express our collective frustration and indignation over this dismal state of human rights. We write for the countless victims who have not achieved justice much less attention from the current government.

Through you, Madam Secretary, we call on the Aquino government – urgently and decisively, while there is still enough time – to address the issues we have raised in this open letter and in previous dialogues officials of the Department of Justice.

Signed by members of End Impunity Alliance

Concepcion Empeno, Erlinda Cadapan, Glenda Co,Orly Marcellana, Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, NCCP Sec. Gen. Rev. Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr., UCCP Sec. Gen. Bp. Reuel Norman O. Marigza, Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Bayan chair Dr. Carol Araullo, Karapatan chair Marie Hilao Enriquez, Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, Maria Isabel Lopez, Bibeth Orteza, Atty. Evalyn Ursua, Prof. Danilo Arao,Prof. Rolando Tolentino, Pete Lacaba,Ricky Lee, Raye V. Baquirin,Karapatan Sec. Gen. Cristina Palabay, Dr. Romeo F. Quijano, SIBAT Dep. Dir. Shen R. Maglinte, Rev. Jerome Baris, Prof. Leonilo Doloricon, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Sari Dalena, Prof. Carl Marc Ramota, Bp. Elorde M. Sambat, Bp. Hamuel G. Tequis, Bp. Emergencio D. Padillo, Bp. Joel Tendero, Bp. Jaime R. Moriles, Bp. Jezer E. Bertoldo, Bp. Melzar D. Labuntog, Catherine Abon, Maria Finesa Cosico