Friday, May 06, 2011

Philippines pledges to end enforced disappearances

Philippines pledges to end enforced disappearances
Thursday, 05 May 2011 04:22

MANILA: The Philippines pledged yesterday to end enforced disappearances of left-wing activists, community organisers and suspected Maoist rebels and sign and ratify an international treaty.

More than 2,000 such cases have been documented in the Philippines, about 40 percent of which were reported during the iron-fisted regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 to 1986.

Dozens were also reported missing during the nine-year rule of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which ended last year. Her government was also blamed for hundreds of political killings in 2006-2007.

Philippine security forces also promised to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of military and police officers implicated in disappearances, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told a forum.

“You have our commitment to drive this practice to extinction,” de Lima said.

The international convention for the protection of people from enforced disappearances came into force in December 2010, four years after it was adopted by the United Nations.

Eighty-eight states have signed the treaty, but only 25 have ratified it. The Philippines had yet to sign because of resistance under the previous administration, de Lima said.

“I will talk to the president and ask him to sign the convention at the soonest,” de Lima said, adding there had been a shift in the military’s orientation in respecting human rights under the new government.

She said an army captain implicated in the 2007 disappearance of Jonas Burgos, a leader of a left-wing farmers’ group and son of a journalist and freedom fighter, had been taken into “protective custody” while charges against him were being prepared in the Justice department.

Renato Reyes, spokesman for the left-wing New Patriotic Alliance, said his group welcomed the commitment. “We are calling on the president to make a stand on the issue and show his political will,” Reyes said, adding the security forces would probably oppose any action that could hold soldiers accountable for rights abuses.

Reyes said his group had also met de Lima.

“She appeared sincere in assuring us the killings and the disappearance will stop, but we’re more interested in punishing those who have been identified to have been involved in the killings and disappearances.”


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