August 17, 2006

Amnesty International report, an indictment

Nobel Peace Prize winner Amnesty International’s 15 August 2006 report entitled “Philippines: Political killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process” (go to for full report) is a well researched, balanced, comprehensive and therefore insightful report on the current human rights situation that no government in its rightful mind can or will dismiss. Sad to say, the uniform reaction from Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s men is exactly that, defensive denial of any fault on government’s part and angry dismissal of the AI report as “blanket accusations” and “one-sided” in favor of the communist movement.

Contrary to Malacaňang’s fulminations, the AI report clearly and objectively states its conclusions, to wit: “The attacks, mostly carried out by unidentified men who shoot the victims before escaping on motorcycles, have very rarely led to the arrest, prosecution and punishment of those responsible. AI believes that the killings constitute a pattern and that a continuing failure to deliver justice to the victims represents a failure by the Government of the Philippines to fulfil its obligation to protect the right to life of every individual in its jurisdiction.”

AI then proceeds to substantiate these conclusions not just with reports from Philippine rights groups deemed biased by Mrs. Arroyo’s defenders but with an extensive review of UN assessments of the Philippine human rights record and reports from other independent rights monitoring and advocacy groups including the Asian Human Rights Commission, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the World Council of Churches. AI also takes into full account official pronouncements and actions of the Arroyo government such as Mrs. Arroyo’s formation of Task Force Usig, her SONA condemnation of the killings and call for witnesses to come forward and her most recent 10-week deadline for the police resolution of at least 10 outstanding cases of extajudicial killings.

But more than this, to the consternation of former military general and now Executive Secretary Ermita, Defense Secretary Cruz, Local Governments Secretary Puno, Presidential spokesman Bunye and assorted police and military officials, the AI report says that the threat of further killings intensified due to political developments in 2006 including the declaration of a State of Emergency (PP 1017) in late February and the continuing collapse of the peace process.

AI recognized the serious implications, since PP 1017, of the warrantless arrests or threatened arrests of a wide array of suspects from across the political spectrum with the “primary target” appearing to be the CPP-NPA and progressive leftist parties. The latter were publicly accused by senior government officials of being “front organizations” of illegal armed groups and rebellion charges are being relentlessly pursued against prominent Leftists inside and outside Parliament.

According to AI, “As senior officials and military officers labelled members of the legal left ‘enemies of the state’ and failed to condemn the killings consistently at all levels of government, fears grew that elements within the armed forces might interpret this as a tacit signal that political killings were a legitimate part of the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Such fears were well founded. AI recognizes at least 51 political killings that took place in the first half of 2006, compared to the 66 killings it recorded in the whole of 2005.

An essential component of the AI report is a historical backgrounder on armed conflict and human rights in the Philippines and the impact of the peace process, in particular the inking of a Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front.

According to the highly respected international human rights body, “In the absence of a ceasefire agreement, the CARHRIHL was seen as a key instrument not only to address continuing patterns of abuses occurring within the context of the continuing conflict, but as a measure to build trust and confidence and so strengthen the momentum of the peace process.”

The organization ended its report with a call on the Philippine government to implement Amnesty International’s 14-Point Program for the Prevention of Extrajudicial Executions.

In a stinging rebuke of the Arroyo administration’s lack of political will to put a stop the the extrajudicial kllings, AI urged Philippine authorities to “reiterate a clear, unequivocal message to all members of the police, military and other security forces that involvement in, or acquiescence to, such unlawful killings will never be tolerated. All such cases must be fully and promptly investigated and all those responsible, whether linked to the armed forces or not, brought to justice. Only in this manner can public confidence in the impartial and effective administration of justice be restored and a peace process, with respect for human rights by all sides at its heart, be revived.”

Unless Mrs. Arroyo’s bright boys can find a way to cast doubt on the integrity of Amnesty International’s report, perhaps by labelling it as a product of insidious Leftist propaganda efforts, nothing less than a stop to the killings and punishment of the perpetrators can counter this latest indictment of the Arroyo regime.###

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