A hopeless suit

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines filed a suit for P6 million in damages against former president – and now Pampanga Representative – Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with regards to alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances during her presidency. Here are some details from PhilStar:

In the 18-page complaint filed at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, UCCP demanded that P1 million be paid to the organization by Arroyo for moral damages; P500,000 each for the relatives of the six supposed victims; P500,000 for exemplary damages and P300,000 each for litigation and attorney’s fees.

UCCP is bringing the suit on the legal theory of command responsibility, i.e. as president she commands the Armed Forces of the Philippines and is responsible for disciplining any human rights violations that occur.

It’s worth noting that other suits against AFP commanders, most notably Jovito Palparan, have failed to gain much traction in the courts. Plaintiffs need to provide clear evidence that the commander (or president) knew of the abuses, difficult even in the best of circumstances. However, one new factor in their favor could be Aquino, or namely whether the Aquino administration provides support for such suits. I’d be surprised if there were a major ruling against Arroyo, but then again the Philippine judiciary has always been full of surprises.

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