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One Death is Too Many

The great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said that for evil to triumph, all that is necessary is that good men do nothing. I am reminded of Burke’s words as I look into the culture of impunity here in the Philippines.

Impunity is a big word and so are the men behind it. And on the other side is a government that allows it to happen.

In December last year, a local court has issued a warrant of arrest against a retired military colonel who has earned the moniker The Butcher. The arrest order was in connection with the kidnapping and illegal detention of two student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The two students went missing in 2006. Palparan, too, is nowhere to be found ever since the arrest order has been issued against him.

In early April, the same department issued an arrest order against Joel Reyes, a former provincial governor in connection with the murder case of a journalist killed in 2011 in a province in the southern Philippines.

Like Palparan, the once very visible Reyes is nowhere to be found. Palparan and Reyes are only two suspects in a country of men and women who get away with wrongdoing.

And such a culture only gives perpetrators the guts to keep on doing what they’re doing.

The result is the rising number of human rights violations – enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings.

The numbers are stark and telling: 150 journalists killed since 1986; at least 206 cases of enforced disappearances; and 1,206 cases of extra judicial killings since 2001, according to data from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and human rights umbrella group Karapatan. The numbers continue to grow. They represent not just statistics but more importantly, a denial of victims’ right to justice and redress.

Indeed, a culture of impunity in the Philippines remains prevalent. Our president, Benigno Aquino III, who ran on the platform of good governance, has yet to fulfill his promise that he would bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.

And one death, one life, is just too many.


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About The Author(s)

Iris Gonzales

Iris Gonzales


I'm a Manila-based journalist and blogger. At present, I work for The Philippine Star, covering public finance and the macroeconomy but I also write many other stories here and there. I blog about development and human rights issues for the London-based The New Internationalist.

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