Killings create climate of impunity — US report

Published by rudy Date posted on March 8, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — Unlawful killings and the murder of journalists by various groups went unsolved and unpunished last year, contributing to the climate of impunity in the Philippines, the US State Department said in its annual global human rights report.The US Country Report on Human Rights Practices, covering 82 countries, is prepared by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and submitted every year to the US Congress. It was released Wednesday by the US Embassy in Manila.

The report on the Philippines said that in 2006 there were “a number of arbitrary, unlawful and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors.”

It said many of these killings went unsolved despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases. It said that investigation of cases from 2004 and 2005, including the killing of judges, were still ongoing.

Delayed trials

“Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces; however, some elements of these security forces committed human rights abuses,” it said.

It said that arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions “were common.”

“Trials were delayed and procedures were prolonged. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Corruption was a problem in all the institutions making up the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutorial and judicial organs,” it said.

The report also said the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, killed local government officials, left-wing activists and civilians, including through the use of land mines.

It said both the NPA and other terrorist groups used underage soldiers in combat roles, including bombing attacks.

The report also said vigilante groups conducted summary killings of suspected criminals in two major cities and local officials appeared to condone and even encourage them.

During a brief “state of emergency” in February 2006, the report noted some attempts to curtail the freedom of the press and the right of assembly.

Downplayed by Palace

Malacañang on Wednesday tried to downplay the US State Department report, with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita saying it was just a “reminder” from a longtime ally.

“They only want to remind us” so that the issue will not be a thorn in the two countries’ relations, he said.

He pointed out that the country enjoyed a “long and fruitful” relationship with the United States, so Washington officials “don’t want to castigate” the Philippine government.

Ermita said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could not be faulted that she was not doing enough to stem the killings as she has created Task Force Usig, the Melo Commission and even invited United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.

Ermita, who had lunch with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney last week, said the envoy appeared “satisfied with the steps being taken by the President” to resolve the killings.–Cynthia Balana Michael Lim Ubac, Inquirer

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