Wednesday, February 21, 2007

UN blames AFP for murders; GMA gov’t in total denial

The inept corrupt Arroyo government is just doing a lip service to stop political killings and rampant human rights violations. Gloria Arroyo oversaw an unparallel series of political assassinations of journalists, lawyers, church workers, and peasant and labor leaders, militant activists. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has a constitutional mandate as protector of the people not annihilator of the Filipino people. Some rogue elements of the military (low level soldiers) cannot act alone without orders from their superior officers. The Arroyo regime all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army may be responsible for political killings of suspected CPP-NPA supporters. The military death squads take the law into their hands without due process. Suspects of the so-called enemies of the state have the right to a fair trial in court. The military top honchos are untouchables. Military support is the key factor for the political survival of discredited Gloria Arroyo regime. Defense chief Ebdane and AFP chief of staff General Esperon are involved in massive electoral fraud in 2004 presidential election and its subsequent cover-up operations. Arroyo cannot afford to alienate the military hierarchy she depends on to stay in power.

Military must admit extrajudicial killings- UN special rapporteur
Melo Commission Report

Gov’t Readies Reply to UN Rapporteur
Melo Commission Ignored Key Policy Issues on Killings

DoJ chief: ‘Sonamagun’ Alston no RP expert

UN blames AFP for murders; GMA gov’t in total denial

Daily Tribune 02/22/2007

The United Nations, through its special rapporteur, Philip Alston, in a press conference held yesterday, placed the blame on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for many of the political murders that have rocked the country and pressed President Arroyo to rein in the bloodshedm stressing that the AFP and the Arroyo government are in almost “total denial’.

Wrapping up an investigation into what rights groups say are more than 800 political assassinations, UN special envoy Alston said many of the killings stemmed from the military’s campaign against left-wing guerrillas.

Alston stressed that the Arroyo government was responsible for a climate of impunity but said he did not have evidence to support allegations by the nation’s leading human rights group that Mrs. Arroyo had ordered the murders.

Earlier, Alston was said to have briefed several Philippine officials, among whom was presidential legal counsel

Sergio Apostol, whom sources told the Tribune reportedly asked of Alston if he could defer making public his findings after the May elections, to which Alston reportedly replied that he was not here to engage in politics.

Alston said “the increase in extra-judicial executions in recent years is attributable, at least in part, to a shift in the military’s counter-insurgency strategy,” adding that “in some instances, such intimidation escalates into extra-judicial executions,” he said, stressing that many of the killings had been “convincingly attributed” to the military, which he said was in “almost total denial” and has refused to cooperate in conducting fair investigation on the unabated executions.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s arguments against Palace critics were reduced to name calling once more yesterday as he denounced the delegation members of the UN as having allowed themselves to be misled by what the justice chief termed as ‘leftist groups’ propaganda.

Gonzalez also denounced Alston, calling him a hireling of the UN who could not even enter other countries.

“Mr. Alston is the one in denial of the atrocities of the other side... He’s been here only for one week and now he’s an expert in Philippine history,” said Gonzalez in a press briefing.

“You can tell that sonamagun that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.. In other countries, he cannot even enter ...We are very kind. We let everybody in and visit our kitchen and toilets,” he added.

Short of calling Alston an ingrate, Gonzalez said that the UN should stop interfering in the internal affairs of the Philippines.

He said Alston is just a “hired man of the UN” who came to the Philippines with “preconceived ideas” against government.

“Once somebody from that body comes here, basically he has a preconditioned mind. Whom did he first talk to? He talked to the Leftists. He allowed himself to be brainwashed first by the Leftists,” he said.

Concluding his 10-day fact-finding mission to the Philippines, particularly in Davao and Baguio, Alston used the analogy of alcoholism in describing the military’s reaction on allegations that it is behind the massive killings of militants.

“Recovering from alcoholism is to acknowledge that there is a problem. If a guy says ‘I’m not an alcoholic. I just have an occasional drink and that’s it. There’s no problem.’ That’s how I see the military these days. They occasionally make public statements, which are a little more yielding, but if you look at the systematic more legal response to the Melo commission report, which I received, it’s in denial and I think that’s the real position of the military,” Alston told the media.

He said Mrs. Arroyo needs to tell the military to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings attributed to them.

He also pointed out that the President would have to tell the AFP that its reputation and effectiveness “will be considerably enhanced, rather than undermined, by acknowledging the facts and taking genuine steps to investigate.”

“When the Chief of the AFP contents himself with telephoning Maj. Gen. (Jovito) Palparan three times on order to satisfy himself that the persistent and extensive allegations against the General were entirely unfounded, rather than launching a thorough internal investigation, it is clear that there is still a very long way to go,” the UN official said.

Alston said he wants to hear a categorical statement from Mrs. Arroyo, the Defense Secretary and the military hierarchy that extra-judicial killings will not be tolerated.

He also stressed that he wanted the AFP to investigate seriously and methodically on the allegations “and not in a way that simply protects its own offices.”

Alston also underscored the importance of making public the Melo Commission Report.

“It is not for me to evaluate the Melo Report. That is for the people of the Philippines to do,” he pointed out, adding that the Melo report was never intended to be preliminary or interim.

“The need to get ‘leftists’ to testify is no reason to withhold a report which in some ways at least vindicates their claims,” he said.

“And extending a Commission whose composition has never succeeded in winning full cooperation seems unlikely to cure the problems still perceived by those groups. Immediate release of the report is an essential first step,” Alston added.

Alston also said that the focus on the military led-Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission is insufficient.

He said the bigger challenge confronting the government is how to restore the accountability mechanisms that the Philippine Constitution and Congress have put in place.

Alston said Executive Order 464 and later another gag order known as Memorandum Circular 108, which prohibits government officials from testifying in Congress, undermine the capacity of the legislative to hold the executive to account in any meaningful way.

He also noted that the country’s witness protection program is deeply flawed.

Instead of encouraging more witnesses to come forward, many of them intimidated and harassed.

“The WPP is impressive—on paper,” he said. “In practice…it is deeply flawed and would seem only to be truly effective in a very limited number of cases. 80 percent (of the cases) fail to move from the initial investigation to the actual prosecution stage,” he said.

Alston also said there is a need to provide legitimate space for leftist groups.

The AFP, he said, relies solely on figures and trends relating to the purges of the late 1980s, and on an alleged CPP-NPA document captured in May 2006 describing “Operation Bushfire”

“In the absence of much stronger supporting evidence this particular document bears all the hallmarks of a fabrication and cannot be taken as evidence of anything other than disinformation,” Alston noted.

He said the purge theory was pushed relentlessly by the AFP, which failed to distinguish the purging cases from the 1,227 extra judicial killings cited by the military from the number of cases acknowledged by the CPP-NPA.

He said while purging cases have occurred, even the most concerned about them, such as members of leftist groups, have suggested that they could not amount to even 10 percent of the total killings.

“The evidence offered by the military in support of this theory in especially unconvincing,” he said.

He also said that the term “unexplained killings” used by the government is “inept and misleading.”

Alston said it may be inappropriate in the context of a judicial process but human rights inquiries are more broad-ranging.

“One does not have to wait for a court to secure a conviction before one can conclude that human rights violations are occurring. The term ‘extra-judicial killings’ which has a long pedigree is far more accurate and should be used,” he said.

He added that there was a “problem of virtual impunity” which meant eight out of 10 cases failed to move from police investigation to prosecution.

“The present message is that if you want to preserve your life expectancy, don’t act as a witness in a criminal prosecution for killing,” he said.

The military, one of the most powerful institutions in the country, has accused rights groups of inflating the numbers of victims and said that many of those listed as dead were guerrillas killed in clashes with the armed forces.

But Alston said that, while leftist organizations were also guilty of propaganda, most of the cases they presented “proved credible under cross-examination.”

Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, a military spokesman, said at least four soldiers were being investigated, and that one had been officially charged, but declined to comment when asked if Alston’s remarks were unfair.

Alston said his own final report would be released within three months, calling his remarks Wednesday “a general indication of some – but by no means all – of the issues to be addressed”.

The AFP yesterday maintained that many cases of unsolved killings of militant personalities were perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA) as part of their purging operations among their members suspected to be working with government authorities.

According to Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, AFP public information chief said that the military leadership has cooperated fully on the investigation being conducted by the UN.

“Definitely we have documents to show, we have shown them documents that indeed – in the NPA group – there have been purging, and as a matter of fact, they have admitted before they conducted purging operations and they asked for an apology from the relatives of the victims,” Bacarro said.

“Their admission and apology can be considered as rectification because they realized later on that they were wrong in conducting the purging,” Bacarro said.

Task Forces Usig chief Supt. Geary Barias, also maintained that many of the killings were result of an internal purge within the communist rebel movement and defended Palparan, saying there was no evidence against him. Michaela P. del Callar, Ben Gines, Jr., Benjamin B. Pulta, Gina Peralta-Elorde and AFP

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