AMNESTY International has welcomed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo‘s public condemnation of political killings in the country, and challenged her to “take determined action” to prevent further incidents.

“It is encouraging that President Arroyo condemned the killings of activists in her address to the nation,” said Tim Parritt, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Programme. “But she must now show she means business by implementing concrete measures to prevent the deaths of more activists.”

Mrs. Arroyo, in her sixth State of the Nation Address on Monday, said she condemns political killings, “in the harshest possible terms.” “We together stopped judicial executions with the abolition of the death penalty,” the President said. “We urge witnesses to come forward. Together we will stop extrajudicial executions.”

AI’s Parritt said the government “has a duty to protect every person in the Philippines, no matter their political persuasion or whether or not security personnel are linked to the attacks.”

The human-rights group Karapatan says there have been some 709 extrajudicial executions during the Arroyo presidency. The number, the group says, is only slightly lower than the 766 killed between 1986 and 2001, during the presidencies of Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada.

Leftist organizations have expressed fears that despite the President’s public pronouncement in her SONA, political killings and other alleged human-rights violations will continue under her term. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), for instance, has said the President’s condemnation of extrajudicial killings, “is nothing but lip service given that she praised its primary implementer.”

The group was referring to Gen. Jovito Palparan, Commanding General of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. Palparan faces numerous allegations of human-rights violations committed by personnel under his command.

In her annual speech, Mrs. Arroyo praised Palparan for his work to “end the long oppression of barangays by rebel terrorists.”

Police director general Oscar Calderon also told the media yesterday that Palparan has never been implicated in any of the formal complaints of abuses that the police have looked into.

“There have been no witnesses that have come out to pinpoint Gen. Palparan as involved in the killings,” Calderon was quoted by the Manila Standard Today. “It’s really hard for investigators to build a case based on allegations. We cannot use them as evidence in court.”

And this, precisely, is why Amnesty is also calling on the government to strengthen the country’s witness protection laws. “Many witnesses to political killings — even close relatives of the victims — are simply too frightened to come forward.”

The group said potential witnesses routinely face intimidation, even the risk of death.

1 Response to Amnesty tells Arroyo: Do more to stop political killings


INSIDE PCIJ » The killings continue

December 31st, 2006 at 11:39 pm

[…] Despite the creation of Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission, killings have continued. This has drawn heavy criticism from Amnesty International, the European Union, Canadian human rights wokers, and other international observers. Human rights groups have tagged the military as the perpetrators behind many of the killings. Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police has pinned the blame on an internal purge within the Communist Party of the Philippine, a charge that has been denied by the New People’s Army. […]

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