Wednesday, March 28, 2007

UN special rapporteur Alston bares AFP’s ‘Order of Battle’ vs Reds, fronts

Warns GMA of loss of international support if killings are not stopped

Alston bares AFP’s ‘Order of Battle’ vs Reds, fronts


By Michaela P. del Callar

Daily Tribune 03/29/2007

Contrary to a Malacañang aide’s claim that the report by a United Nation’s officer on his findings will not have any negative impact on the Arroyo government, UN special rapporteur Philip Alston has issued a warning to the Arroyo regime that it faces the dire consequence of eroding international support if the regime fails to stop the political murders.

Alston also bared a damning Philippine document linking the country’s military and police to the rash of political killings.

In a preliminary note presented before the 4th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday evening (Manila time), Alston said an “order of battle” approach is currently adopted and practiced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“A copy of a leaked document of this type from 2006 was provided to me and I am aware of no reason to doubt its authenticity,” Alston said as he had asked the Philippine government to provide him a copy of the paper.

In military terms, an order of battle, he explained, is defined as an organizational tool used by the military intelligence to list and analyze its enemy units.

He said the document, co-signed by senior military and police officials, calls upon “all members of the intelligence community in the (relevant) region…to adopt and be guided by this update to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the CPP-NPA/NDF (Communist Part of the Philippines-New People’s Army/National Democratic Front).”

Alston said the document, some 110 pages in length lists hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified on the basis of intelligence as members of organizations which the military deems “illegitimate.”

“Newspapers carry almost daily reports of senior military officials urging that such groups be neutralized and calling upon the populace to recognize that to support their candidates in the upcoming elections would be to support the enemy,” the UN official said.

“This practice was openly and adamantly defended by nearly every member of the military (with) whom I spoke,” Alston added.

He said when the significant number of individuals is listed in the military order of battle, “it raises serious questions about the appropriateness of this practice.”

“It may be, as I was told, a ‘political war,’ but when such political war is conducted by soldiers rather than civilians, politics too quickly comes to involve guns as well as words,” Alston said.

He also believes that the government’s counter-insurgency encourages or facilitates the extra-judicial killings of activists and other “enemies” in certain circumstances.

Alston, meanwhile, warned that consequences of a failure to end the killings in the Philippines will be “dire” and that international support for the Arroyo government will be undermined.

He said efforts to resolve the various insurgencies will be set back significantly and incentives to opposition groups to head for the hills rather than seek to engage in democratic politics will be enhanced.

“A multifaceted and convincing governmental response is thus urgent,” Alston said.

Alston conceded that there were killings committed by the communists and condemned them as reprehensible, but stressed that these killings, which were admitted by the rebels, happened decades ago and that “there is absolutely no evidence that the recent surge in killings of leftist activists is due to a communist purge.

“On the contrary, strong and consistent evidence leads to the conclusion that a significant number of these killings are due to the actions of the military,” he said.

Alston however said the recommendations he had come up with will hardly make a difference “unless there is a fundamental change of heart on the part of the military or the emergence of civilian resolve to compel the military to change its ways. Then, and only then, will it be possible to make real progress in ending the killings,” he stressed.

Alston also observed that there is “passivity,” in the Philippine Senate and the Department of Justice on the way they tackle human rights concerns.

He stressed that the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, chaired by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, insisted that there was no role for Congress since no new legislation was required.

“He (referring to Enrile) had not and did not intend to hold hearings into the widespread problem of extra-judicial killings because it was a matter for the executive, rather than Congress,” Alston said.

The UN officer pointed out that the Senate committee on Human rights rejects the idea of taking a proactive stance on human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings, seeing no reason to exercise its oversight function and investigate whether the executive is properly implementing the law on human rights.

He also criticized President Arroyo as he scored a memorandum circular issued by Malacañang requiring military and police officials to secure the President’s permission before testifying in any congressional hearing.

“The executive branch has stymied the legislature’s efforts to oversee the execution of laws.” He added that that Executive Order 464 and later known as Memorandum Circular 108, which prohibits government officials from testifying in Congress, stymied the legislature’s efforts to oversee the execution of laws.

Alston said the Secretary of Justice, and his colleagues, “were perplexed at the proposition that prosecutors, whose role is absolutely central in the Philippines justice system, had some broader responsibility to take steps to uphold respect for human rights.”

He added: “Instead, their role was seen as a passive one. If a file presented to them was insufficient, their role was simply to return it and hope that the police would do better next time. It was not for them to observe or respond to clearly shoddy dossiers designed to ensure that the police could be said to have done their job while at the same time no prosecution would follow.”

He also finds “highly problematic” the government position that prosecutors must show “total impartiality” and that they cannot be directed to adapt their methods of work to ensure that everything possible is done to promote respect for human rights.

Alston also criticized the Office of the Ombudsman for having done almost nothing amid complaints submitted to it from 2002 to 2006 alleging extra-judicial executions attributed to state agents.

“The Ombudsman’s office, despite the existence of a separate unit designed to investigate precisely the type of killings that have been alleged, has done almost nothing in recent years in this regard. The Government itself acknowledges that, of 44 complaints submitted from 2002 to 2006 alleging extra-judicial executions attributed to State agents, the Ombudsman’s office concluded that it was unable to act on even a single case. While such a result in relation to five or even 10 cases might be justifiable, when it reaches the level of 44 cases the conclusion must be that the office is failing in its responsibilities.”

Aware that the Alston report to the UN would be a black eye on the agency, the Justice Department grudgingly ordered the creation of task forces made up of regional state prosecutors to handle all cases of extra-judicial killings.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño said the task forces would be directly supervised by Assistant Chief State Prosecutors Richard Anthony Fadullon and Miguel Gudio.

“I will be sending out memorandum orders to regional state prosecutors to organize their task forces,” Zuno said, admitting that the task forces are necessary considering that the number of extrajudicial killings has reached an alarming stage.

The task forces, he said, will focus on areas where reports of extra-judicial killings are rampant such as Samar-Leyte and Bicol.

The UN Special Rapporteur was described by Justice chief Raul Gonzalez as a “hireling” who not only prejudged the findings but said he was brainwashed by the leftists.

Alston found key government institutions under the Arroyo regime to be extremely indifferent to human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings.

He did not spare Malacañang from his criticisms, saying that the Palace, evidently referring to President Arroyo, also shirked its duty to uphold human rights in the country.

The reports stated that there is “a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility, which affects the way in which key institutions and actors approach their responsibilities in relation to such human rights concerns.”

Months earlier, in Manila, Alston described the Arroyo administration and its police and military as being in a state of “almost total denial.”

The AFP chief of staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., along with the defense chief, Gen. Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr., hit back at Alston, saying it was he who was in a state of denial, claiming that Alston had refused to even bother with the evidence they had presented, showing that the abuses were committed by the leftists.

Malacañang yesterday claimed it was not panicking over the Alston report, with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said saying that Alston did not single out the Philippine government on the cases of political killings but also made mentioned of the liability of the CCP-NPA. He obviously had not as yet read the report.

“Based on the information from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Alston report is balanced and fair. It made mention of the efforts done by the Philippine government to address the problem of extra-judicial killings. We feel that it’s a pretty fair report,” Ermita said.

Malacañang also urged the CPP-NPA on its 38th year anniversary today to lay down its arms and surrender to the government.

Ermita said the CPP-NPA must end its objective to topple the government and instead return to peace negotiations. Benjamin B. Pulta and Sherwin C. Olaes



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