Thursday, August 17, 2006

Amnesty International tells RP: Shame on you

Amnesty Int’l tells RP: Shame on you
Slays traced to state of emergency, war vs Reds

By Norman Bordadora
Last updated 01:59am (Mla time) 08/16/2006
Published on Page A1 of the August 16, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE UNABATED killing of leftist activists constitutes a pattern of political executions that should be a source of “deep embarrassment” to the Philippine government, according to Amnesty International (AI).

In a 51-page report released yesterday, the London-based human rights group said the threat of more such murders had intensified this year along with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s declaration of a state of emergency in February, the arrest and threatened arrest of militant party-list lawmakers, and the administration’s all-out war against communist insurgents.

The group raised concerns about “credible reports” that security forces were involved in the killings, or at least tolerated or had knowledge of them.

AI documented a steep increase in the incidence of extrajudicial killings this year, recording 51 cases in the first semester. It pointed out there were 66 such killings in the entire 2005.

“No one deserves to die for their political affiliation. It should be a deep embarrassment to the government that people in the Philippines cannot freely exercise their rights of political __expression and association,” said AI’s Southeast Asia researcher Tim Parritt.

In its report that included case studies of the killings and of warrantless arrests, AI listed these key recommendations: Reassertion of respect for human rights; guarantee of the administration of justice; compliance with the human rights agreement in the peace process, and action by other human rights institutions.

UN mechanisms

AI called on the Philippine government to seek the expertise of the United Nations’ “relevant special mechanisms” by inviting the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and representatives of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit the Philippines.

It also called for an independent oversight body that would ensure that all investigations of political killings -- including those by the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig -- were backed by effective coordination between the PNP, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and Department of National Defense.

Asked yesterday to comment, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said: “Let us be very clear: These killings are appalling and the President condemns them in the strongest possible terms. She has taken a number of actions. She has offered rewards, brought in the police and directed the [DoJ] to stop at nothing in bringing the perpetrators to justice. She is determined to bring these breaches under control and to mete out the harshest punishments to the offenders.”

Culture of impunity

In her State of the Nation Address last month, the President said she was condemning the political killings. But she also heaped lavish praise on Major General Jovito Palparan, who has been tagged the “butcher” of leftist activists for the cases of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses in areas where he has been posted.

“The common features in the methodology of the attacks, the leftist profile of the victims and an apparent culture of impunity shielding the perpetrators has led AI to believe that the killings are not an unconnected series of criminal murders, armed robberies or other unlawful killings,” the group said.

“Rather, they constitute a pattern of politically targeted extrajudicial executions taking place within the broader context of a continuing counterinsurgency campaign,” it said.

It cited motorcycle-riding death squads preying on leftist activists as well as cases of militant politicians and activists being labeled as communist cadres.

AI called for a renewed commitment from both the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines to respect human rights, noting that the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the CPP, had announced the formation of “retaliatory hit squads” against government forces.

“With the political will necessary to revive peace negotiations currently appearing absent, [AI] believes it essential that all sides urgently reassert respect for human rights in order to prevent

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