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Refusing to open up

On the surface, it is confounding why this government, which claims to champion transparency and accountability, would deny the request of United Nations representatives to look into killings and other human rights abuses committed against tribal communities—lumad—in Mindanao.

Two lumad leaders and a teacher were killed recently, and in a fashion indicative of hatred and intolerance.

A human rights group has decried the killings, claiming they were carried out by paramilitary groups created by the military to help it in its anti-insurgency drive. The lumad are suspected of sympathizing with the New People’s Army.

As a result of the killings, thousands of lumad people have fled their homes in Surigao del Sur for fear of their lives. They are cramped in a sports complex; children are not going to school.

In the meantime, leaders in imperial Metro Manila are preoccupied with something more immediate to their interests: the elections.

Meetings were initially set as if to humor the human rights advocates and the families of the victims. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was supposed to meet with them last week, but cancelled at the last minute because of a supposed meeting with the President.

The administration believes that “internal processes” can get to the bottom of the issue. The victims and the rights advocates do not buy this, though, since De Lima herself is on her way out of the Justice Department —to appease the Iglesia, to run for the Senate, or conveniently both.

The spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs also expressed confidence that any investigation is best conducted by relevant authorities.

We deplore this refusal to shed light on what really happened—what continues to happen—to the lumad down South. We have had our share of internal investigations conducted by this administration—in the 2010 hostage crisis in Luneta, and the Mamasapano killings in January this year. Both do not inspire confidence.

The only way Mr. Aquino can show good faith and claim to champion the good of all Filipinos is to allow the investigation of the violence inflicted on an indigenous group who cannot defend themselves.   That it has slammed the door on any international probe leads us to think there is something to hide, something Mr. Aquino does not want us to know.

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