MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said the Aquino administration aspires for genuine reconciliation between Filipinos who hold clashing beliefs and ideologies and are separated by the rift caused by socio-economic gaps.
“It must extend to the active promotion of these social, economic, and cultural conditions in which the dignity of human beings and communities can prosper,” she said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
De Lima said the government envisions a genuine reconciliation process that would narrow the gaps between the “opposite ends of the ideological and economic spectrum.”
The primary initiatives taken by the administration, according to De Lima, were the release of 43 health workers arrested and detained by the previous administration under suspicion of being involved in rebellious acts; the submission to the Senate of the Instrument of Ratification to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which will give way to regular visits by independent international and national organizations.
And the signing and transmission of the instrument of ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was ignored by the previous Executive Branch; and upholding the Rule of Law through reforming Prosecution Mechanisms and battling against the culture of impunity.
De Lima acknowledged the difficulty in upholding the Rule of Law. She mentioned cases like the Maguindanao Massacre, where 57 Filipinos were brutally killed “in the name of preserving political power.”
“The battle is still uphill because the primary accused still wield a lot of political and economic influence even from behind bars, and are still capable of thwarting the efforts of investigators and prosecutors by engaging in methods such as the terrorization of potential witnesses,” said De Lima.
Similar was the case of Mr. James Balao, an alleged founding-member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance who was kidnapped in Baguio by armed men in uniform. The difficulty was receiving cooperation from potential witnesses due to doubt in the sincerity of government efforts.
The Justice Secretary further stressed other endeavors, such as the establishment of a Special Task Force to Address Extralegal Killings and Enforced Disappearances to address all reported and unresolved cases.
The Witness Protection Program (WPP), through the increase of budget allotment and legislative reforms, was strengthened. The pursuit for peace continues to be unrelenting; the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has already submitted its proposal for negotiations. The National Democratic Front (NDF) has agreed on a specific timetable for the “long-delayed negotiation” and execution of final agreements on reforms and the termination of hostilities.
De Lima, furthermore, emphasized the Filipino’s continuing need to reconcile with those who hold opposing beliefs by embracing the differences among the myriad cultures in the country, to eradicate the culture of self-pity, and to work with its government in re-establishing a trusting relationship.
“I hope to help reconcile what government is now to what it ought to aspire to be. Perhaps, through such efforts to become the government that the Filipino people need and deserve, we can again gain their trust and support,” said De Lima.