WE call attention today to a proposed initiative, which sought the Times’ support for the launching of a strategy and program to stop the epidemic of assassinations that has plagued the Philippines for several years now.
It seems that the proposal has been thoughtfully researched and professionally developed. It addresses an acute and urgent problem. The murder of journalists aims at nothing less than their elimination as public watchdog.
Over the past two months the killings have been perpetrated at a pace that is truly frightening. The country has never seen this before. The public authorities have looked helpless and clueless before the menace, and have issued only empty statements and pledges.
Journalists nationwide are under threat because they are the favorite target of assassins. Lately, the victims have included public officials, and lawyers.
The proposal is the brainchild of Mr. Robert Wagner, a retired American serviceman now working in our country as an educator, and Atty. Jose Bernas, a Filipino lawyer.
They call their project “AAIP – Anti-Assassination Initiative Philippines”—a real-world strategy to alleviate journalist and lawyer assassinations in the Philippines.”
The proposal starts with this arresting statement:
“The Philippines is a country ruled by fear; fear of retribution by the corrupt cop who knows he was seen taking a bribe, fear of the local politician who warns his constituents not to reveal the fact that he has fathered a dozen illegitimate children, fear of the possibility that another Ferdinand Marcos could come to power. The only way this fear can be alleviated is by muting the ability of those who have traditionally wielded the power of violence, whether directly employed or threatened, through the application of pre-emptive efforts and the promise of extraordinary prosecutorial action. With nowhere to hide, the directors will be forced to behave themselves and – like the rest of us – work out their grievances through the courts.
“AAIP is a good start toward effecting this end.”
The full proposal needs to be fleshed out and explained in detail by its proponents. For now, we will just summarize some of its highlights.
`Messrs Wagner and Bernas’s strategy is essentially to combine citizen action with law enforcement efforts, and a determined effort to identify and prosecute the directors behind the assassinations. It will thread together an alliance among the citizenry, the media, the police and the criminal justice system to stop the killings and eliminate the culture of impunity that feeds them.
1. Assassination targets –The proposal identifies the main assassination targets, as the following:
• Local journalists
• National journalists
• Lawyers and public officials
2. Assassination directors – The strategy identifies the likely masterminds and directors of assassinations as the following:
• Low-Level Rural Politicians
• Sycophants of High-Level Rural Politicians
• Working Staff of Mid-High Level Urban Politicians
• National Level Politicians and Businessmen
• Military / PNP – as directed by the above or to squelch protests / corruption exposes
The strategy discusses specific procedures for implementing the initiative, both in the pre-assassination phase, and in the post-assassination phase.
It proposes the drafting of retired PNP officers as AAIP action managers in the program.
Messrs. Wagner and Bernas envision the benefits from the initiative as the following:
• Bring potential plots out into the open, before they happen
• Deter Directors from ordering or fomenting killings
• Offer awareness of the problem, as a deterrent, to the public
• Provide Journalists and legal professionals greater freedom to operate
The implementation of the initiative will unilaterally enhance the reputation of the Philippines.
But the most important benefit we will look forward to is the dramatic reduction, if not elimination, of assassinations in the country.
This strategy is a thousand times better than the government’s strategy of doing nothing.