Europe to RP: Bring closure to killings

Published by rudy Date posted on March 17, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on the Philippine government to strengthen its investigation and prosecution of unexplained killings in the country.

This was revealed yesterday by European Union Ambassador Alistair MacDonald on the sidelines of the launching of the website of the ASEAN National Human Rights Institutions Forum at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) office in Quezon City.

In an interview, MacDonald said the European Parliament passed the resolution last Thursday as “Europe and elsewhere around the world” show “great interest” in how the Philippine government addresses the unexplained killings.

MacDonald condemned the recent killings of Rebelyn Pitao, a 20-year-old teacher and daughter of an alleged New People’s Army leader, and Eleazar Billanes, an environmentalist and chairman of a provincial affiliate of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in South Cotabato.

The European Parliament assailed the killings of Pitao and Billanes and urged the Philippine government “to bring their cases to closure.”

“I think the entire country has been shocked by the barbaric killing of Rebelyn Pitao… I feel very sad, not only for this young woman whose life was so brutally ended, not only for her family, but also for the Philippines,” MacDonald said.

Pitao was reported abducted by unidentified gunmen in Davao City last March 4 and was found floating in a river in Carmen town in Davao del Norte the following day.

She was reportedly raped and tortured as she sustained several stab wounds in the chest.

MacDonald said the murders of Pitao and Billanes could “put at risk” the reputation of the Philippines as the “voice” of human rights promotion and protection in the ASEAN as well as principal advocate of the formation of an ASEAN Human Rights Body.

He stressed the important role the Philippines plays in moving the ASEAN to work for the establishment of the human rights organization.

“I feel very sad therefore that the reputation of the Philippine should again be tarnished by the brutal and inhuman murder of Rebelyn Pitao, and that this should have been followed just a few days later by the killing of Eleazar Billanes in Koronadal. Indeed the fate of Jonas Burgos, or Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, also still remains unknown, and that so few convictions in relation to extrajudicial killings have been recorded,” MacDonald pointed out.

He, however, acknowledged the efforts of the Philippine government to address what he described as the “scourge of extrajudicial killings” in the country.

He recognized the establishment of Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission, through the Alston Report and EU Needs and Assessment Mission.

He also cited President Arroyo’s repeated commitment that the perpetrators of these killings should be brought to justice as well as her request for technical assistance from the EU which, he said, “we look forward to providing.”

MacDonald acknowledged the significant decline in the cases of unexplained killings from the second half of 2007 up to last year, which was noted during the Philippines’ Universal Peer Review in Geneva last year.

He expressed hope that investigation into the murders of Pitao and Billanes would be done speedily and authorities would identify those responsible for it.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier ordered the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Presidential Human Rights Committee, and CHR to look into the killing of Pitao.

“I much hope that these investigations can be both effective and speedy in identifying the killers, and in bringing them to trial for murder. Because only if the perpetrators can be brought to justice can this scourge of extrajudicial killings be brought to an end,” MacDonald said.- Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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