Friday, December 29, 2006

The Philippines: 2006 Worst Year For Human Rights

The Arroyo regime wants to insurgency by the year 2010. Psychological warfare, combat and target killing formula ended up with more deaths in the countryside and urban areas. Internal Security Operations (ISO) Oplan Bantay Laya and its death squads are responsible for the political killings. More than 800 activists, journalists, lawyers, farmers, workers and religious workers had been summary executed for their anti-Arroyo stand. The Arroyo government is just doing a lip service to stop political killings after international pressures.

2006 worst year for RP human rights

Daily Tribune 12/30/2006

Another record-high has been notched by President Arroyo and her administration, in line with political murders in the Philippines reaching their highest level in 2006 since the toppling of former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, human activists were quoted by Agence France Presse as saying.

Mrs. Arroyo’s poor record on political murders and human rights abuses have topped the numbers racked up by Marcos, Aquino, Ramos and Estrada years combined.

More than 180 activists —including journalists, human rights workers, left-wing politicians, trade unionists, judges and lawyers — were assassinated this year for their criticism of those in power, they say.

“An average of three extra-judicial killings are occurring every week in the country,” a Canadian human rights team concluded recently after a fact-finding mission to the Southeast Asian nation.

“A clear pattern of state-perpetrated politically motivated extra-judicial killings” was occurring in the country, the team said.

The Canadian team’s report has been dismissed by the Arroyo government as propaganda to serve the country’s communist insurgents who have been fighting a Maoist war for four decades in their bid to seize power.

But local human rights group Karapatan says it has recorded 185 such killings in 2006, the highest number since the regime of Marcos, renowed for his suppression of critics and ousted in 1986.

The sheer number has alarmed the European Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Roman Catholic Church, all of which have called on Mrs. Arroyo to take action to stop the bloodshed.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops Conference in this largely Roman Catholic country, said action must be taken irrespective of who was behind them.

“In the past, there were allegations of killings from the left and the right but regardless of which end of the political spectrum is responsible, public authorities should be even-handed in trying to resolve them,” he told AFP.

Opposition congressman Roilo Golez warned the “murderous year” was undermining democracy, in a nation with a history of coups and dictatorships.

The most high-profile murder came Dec. 16 when Rep. Luis Bersamin, an ally of the President representing the northern province of Abra, was shot dead along with his security aide outside a church in a Manila suburb after the completion of the wedding rites of a niece where he stood as a wedding sponsor.

Police say they have a witness who has linked Abra Gov. Vicente Valera to the killing. Valera has denied responsibility, saying he and Bersamin were longtime allies.

While the family of the slain Bersamin tags Valera as the mastermind of the murder of the congressman, along with a suspect who, in an affidavit, linked Valera to the murder, the Philippine National Police said the testimony was hearsay and that the police have no strong evidence to charge Valera at this time even as he remains a suspect.

Earlier senior government lawyer Nestor Ballacillo was shot dead along with his son also in a Manila suburb. Police said they had arrested a suspect.

In response to the bloodshed, Mrs. Arroyo has ordered an increase in the visibility of police and for officers to work closer with communities.

She has also set up a special commission to determine who are behind the slayings which has yet to report its findings.

The Melo Commission, a fact-finding body created by Mrs. Arroyo said it would be finished with its task by end December and submit its report to the President. But this early, several commissioners have said that the report would be based mainly on police and military accounts, which would then blame the leftists for these murders.

The Melo Commission, from the start, suffered credibility problems, as the body’s composition has as majority members, officials from the Justice Department, who are known to kowtow to Mrs. Arroyo’s directives.

The President, despite many calls for her to order her police and military to stop the killings by foreign governments and international church leaders, along with international press groups, has not done so, preferring instead to direct her attacks at the leftists groups and her other critics, saying it is the communists who have been behind all these political murders to destabilize her government.

Military and police officials have blamed at least some of the deaths on an internal purge or factional fighting within the 7,100-strong Communist Party’s New People’s Army.

The military, whose officers have also been accused of some of the killings, claim the overall numbers are bloated.

For its part, the New People’s Army has admitted carrying out purges in the past but has largely denied it is behind the latest spate of political murders.

Several international press organizations have also called on Mrs. Arroyo to put a stop to the killings, but these calls have largely been unheeded by Malacañang. They also scored the Arroyo government for suppressing press freedom in the country through the filing of numerous libel suits by the presidential spouse, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo against several journalists, including publishers, editors, reporters and columnists deemed critical of the government and of his alleged power and influence over government affairs.

The Freedom House based in the US has also scored the Philippines under Mrs. Arroyo for the loss of press freedom, pulling the country’s ranking from an earlier “free” to half-free” state.

Last February, Mrs. Arroyo issued Proclamation 1017, imposing a country-wide national emergency rule, where rallies were banned and demonstrators quickly dispersed, with their leaders arrested without warrants.

A newspaper, the Daily Tribune, was raided at midnight by police operatives and illegally searched and seized several documents, without a warrant. The police padlocked the printing press and offices while surrounding the Tribune offices for days.

Then Police chief Gen. Arturo Lomibao announced in a televised press conference that he and his police force would be taking over the editorial aspect of the paper.

The Tribune, along with others went to the high court to question the constitutionality of the emergency rule. This proclamation was struck down by the high court.

During a visit to Finland where European leaders were gathered for a summit, Mrs. Arroyo was also scored by these leaders on the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. In reply, Mrs. Arroyo said she had formed the Melo Commission to look into these murders, but ended up blaming the leftists and the communists, as her police and military do.

But blaming the communists and establishing a commission have failed to ease fears among many Filipinos about their own safety. With AFP

International Reactions Fail to Stop Killings and Disappearances
Stop Political Killings
Philippines: The Killing Fields of Asia

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