THE military needs to acknowledge that extrajudicial killings are happening in the country and should take immediate steps to undertake a serious and methodical investigation, said the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Prof. Philip Alston said in a press briefing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “remains in a state of almost total denial…of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings that have been convincingly attributed to them.”

Alston added that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo needs to persuade the military to recognize the facts.

Read Alston’s statement.

“When the Chief of the AFP contents himself with telephoning Maj. Gen. (Jovito) Palparan three times in 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.”

Alston presented his preliminary findings after a 10-day mission to probe into extrajudicial killings. During his mission, he met with top government officials, AFP officers, representatives of civil society organizations, and relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings. His full report will be released within the next three months.

There has been a “welcome acknowledgment” of the problem at the very top, Alston added. Yet at the executive level, “messages have been mixed and often unsatisfactory.”

He also debunked military allegations that reports of extrajudicial killings were either propaganda, fabricated, the result of purges by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, or committed by rogue elements of the AFP.

The increase in extrajudicial killings, according to Alston, has been partly caused by a shift in the government’s counter-insurgency strategy. “In some areas, an appeal to hearts and minds is combined with an attempt to vilify left-leaning organizations and to intimidate leaders of such organizations. In some instances, such intimidation escalates into extrajudicial execution.”

Alston’s visit has caused a flurry of activity, including the creation of special courts for cases of extrajudicial killings. Yet he also noted that witnesses in such cases remained extremely vulnerable, as the country’s witness protection program is “deeply flawed.” As a result, 80 percent of strong cases fail to move from the initial investigation to the actual prosecution stage.

When it comes to counting the number of extrajudicial killings, figures vary. Karapatan has tallied over 800 victims of extrajudicial killings, while the police’s Task Force Usig has only recorded 115 cases.

Alston did not produce his own figure, saying that he was certain that the number “is high enough to be distressing.” He added that extrajudicial killings are “corrosive” because it “sends a message of vulnerability to all but the most well connected and severely undermines the political discourse which is central to a resolution of the problems confronting this country.”

Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao-Enriquez welcomed the corrective measures in Alston’s statement. She said that Karapatan presented witnesses and evidence to Alston because of his credibility and his independence. In contrast, the group did not cooperate with the Melo Commission, which was widely perceived as a rubber-stamp body.

By creating the commission in response to the furor over extrajudicial killings, the President showed good faith, according to Alston. Yet he also said the the release of the report is an “essential first step.” Malacañang has announced that it will release the Melo report tomorrow.

There is also a need to restore accountability mechanisms that have been undermined by Executive Order No. 464 and its replacement, Memorandum Circular 108, Alston added. He said that these have diminished the capacity of Congress to hold the executive to account in any meaningful way.

5 Responses to Military must admit extrajudicial killings — UN prober



February 21st, 2007 at 9:58 pm

How can Gloria persuade the military to recognize the facts? She herself is in a state of denial. Remember she even praised Palparan in her SONA even if she knows the latter is the subject of numerous protests. Gloria is partly responsible for the killings. She has tolerated the abuses of the military just to hold on to power.


INSIDE PCIJ » For those who still care to remember

February 24th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

[…] HARDLY anyone paid notice this week to the four-day commemoration of the first Edsa People Power revolt that ousted Ferdinand Marcos 21 years ago. For sure, the occasion has been overshadowed by an election season that’s starting to heat up, as well as the furor over the issue of extrajudicial killings that have been blamed primarily on the military by no less than the visiting United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the recently released report of the Melo Commission. […]


INSIDE PCIJ » Leftist party-list groups defend right to exist

February 25th, 2007 at 6:30 pm

[…] IN what was described as a “crude attempt” to dispute the findings of the Melo Commission and of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on the extrajudicial killings, the military released a 20-year-old video tagging certain party-list groups as “legal fronts” for the communist rebel movement. […]


The Daily PCIJ » Blog Archive » Military behind killings of activists — Alston report

November 28th, 2007 at 9:57 pm

[…] that the government should take immediate steps to solve the killings. (Read related reports here and […]


SCARY « Timi will share…

July 7th, 2009 at 6:33 pm

[…] United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston received, when he described the AFP as being in a ’state of denial’ over the issue in his scathing report on the extrajudicial […]

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