SC to create special courts for extrajudicial killings

Published by rudy Date posted on February 16, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will be creating special courts to handle cases involving extrajudicial killings, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said.

Puno announced the creation of the special courts following a lunch meeting Thursday with United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston and members of the fact-finding mission he heads, which is in the country to conduct its own investigation into the killings.

The courts are expected to be set up within the month.

The Chief Justice said he has already directed the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to submit an inventory of all extrajudicial killings, including those with “ideological dimensions” and the murders of journalists.

Puno said the inventory will help the high court identify the sources of delay “to pave the way for a fast resolution of these cases.”

Human rights groups say extrajudicial killings, mostly targeting leftist activists, have claimed more than 830 lives since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001 and accuse state security forces of waging a campaign to silence dissent, a charge the government has denied.

But as the bloodshed continued, the administration found itself under increasing pressure both here and abroad, prompting Arroyo to create police and civilian fact-finding bodies and, lately, invite international human rights experts from the UN, European Union and a number of countries to conduct their own investigations.

Puno said the creation of the special courts “will be part of our efforts to establish special courts in order to resolve all these special types of cases. This will go high in our priority list.”

“The first and foremost of human rights is the right to life. It has long been accorded universal status for the existence of all other rights is premised on the preservation of life,” Puno said.

“The extrajudicial taking of life is the ultimate violation of human rights. It cannot be allowed anywhere, and it has to be resisted everywhere,” he said.

“Extrajudicial killings also constitute brazen assaults on the rule of law. It is the constitutional duty of our judiciary to protect the rule of law and we will link with all efforts to prevent erosion,” Puno added.

The Chief Justice said he wants to “see first the geographical locations of these cases” to determine the number of special courts to be created, which will depend on the number of cases in a particular area.

Although he said the high court is open to setting up a rewards system to speed up the resolution of cases involving extrajudicial killings, he also noted this would need “financial resources and if you look at our budget, the problem will be how to source the finances in order to raise the rewards.”

During the meeting, Alston expressed the UN Commission on Human Rights’ concern over the unabated extrajudicial killings in the country.–Tetch Torres,

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