THE European Parliament has urged the Philippine government to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of extra-judicial killings in the country, European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair McDonald said Monday.
The EU ambassador also condemned the killing of Rebelyn Pitao, 20-year-old daughter of Leoncio Pitao, alias commander Parago, a ranking official of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“I feel very sad therefore that the reputation of the Philippines should again be tarnished by such a brutal and inhuman murder as the killing of Rebelyn Pitao, and that this should have been followed just a few days later by the killing of Eleazar Billanes in Koronadal,” McDonald said at the sidelines of the launching of the Asean NHRI (National Human Rights Institution) Forum Website held at the office of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City.
“In Europe and elsewhere around the world, there will be a great interest in how these recent cases are addressed,” he said.
McDonald stressed that there are only few convictions recorded in the country in relation to extra-judicial killings.
The number of extra-judicial killings has tripled this past few years despite the Arroyo administration’s campaign on human rights, said Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
Mangahas, speaking at a recent seminar on reporting on human rights and extra-judicial killings, said “weak rule of law, effete judicial system, poor police investigation and indifference by authorities” have led to the increasing abductions and extra-judicial executions of political activists and journalists
On the other hand, Commission on Human Rights chairperson Leila de Lima, one of the seminar’s panelists, said, “it does not matter where perpetrators come from, media should look into the cold cases and help in reliving these cases.”
When asked if police would be biased to government officials, military personnel or policemen who are alleged perpetrators, Philippine National Police Col. Dia said, “We will see to it that proper charges are filed against them.”
It will be recalled that Pitao was found dead March 5, a day after she was abducted in Davao City. Her naked body was found floating in a shallow creek in the village of San Isidro in Davao del Norte’s Carmen town. Her body bore torture marks, and she was believed to have been raped before she was stabbed in the chest.
Her father tagged 11 military agents as behind the murder, an accusation strongly denied by the authorities.
Meanwhile The European Commission granted P57 million to support the three-year project, implemented by the four Asean national human rights institutions, namely: Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The Asean NHRI aims to protect and promote human rights across the Asean.
On Thursday, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution calling for the immediate action of the Philippine government on different human rights cases in the country. In a statement posted in its website, “the EP calls on the government to end the systematic intimidation and harassment of political and human rights activists, members of civil society, journalists and witness in criminal prosecutions.”
It cited in its website the hundreds of activists, trade unionists, journalists and religious leaders in the Philippines who have been killed or abducted, adding there is “ample evidence” that the security and armed forces have been involved despite the governments claims to the contrary.
“EPs also call for a through investigation into the high number of executions and forces disappearances, and for an independent monitoring mechanism to be established,” it said further.
The European Parliament also condemned the long-standing insurgency in the country between the government Armed Forces and rebel groups the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“The Parliament strongly believes that the conflict can only be resolved through dialogue, and that the resolution of the insurgency is essential for the sake of development in the Philippines,” it said.
The Parliament said it also welcomed the November 2008 mediation talks between the government and the NDFP, and “calls on the parties to comply with their bilateral agreements.”
— With Rose May Cabacang, Manila Times