US State Department blames killings in Phl on security forces

Published by rudy Date posted on April 12, 2011

ASHINGTON – As many soldiers and police were killed last year in the Philippines as communist rebels and Muslim insurgents, the US State Department said.

In its 2010 Human Rights report on the Philippines released on Friday, the State Department blamed security forces and anti-government guerrillas for a spate of arbitrary and unlawful killings during the year.

Quoting military sources, it said 176 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were killed in fighting with rebel and terrorist groups during the year, 166 by the New People’s Army (NPA) and 10 by Abu Sayyaf rebels in Mindanao.

In the same period, soldiers killed 131 insurgents – 97 suspected NPA members, 23 Abu Sayyaf members, and 11 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members.

Insurgents killed 11 police officers during the year, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed 44 NPA insurgents were killed in police operations around the country.

Arbitrary and unexplained killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of state and non-state actors continued to be serious problems, the report said.

In addition to killing soldiers and police officers in armed encounters, rogue elements of the separatist MILF and terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya, and NPA – the military wing of the Communist Party – killed local government officials and other civilians.

These same groups also were linked to bombings that caused civilian casualties and kidnappings for ransom.

The report said at least 23 people – including five businessmen, three soldiers, three farmers, three loggers, two teachers, and one militia member – were reportedly abducted by ASG, NPA, and other kidnap-for-ransom groups in Compostela province, Basilan, Cotobato City, and the Zamboanga Peninsula during the year.

Five were killed and 12 were either rescued or released; six remained missing or captive.

During the year, the MILF, NPA and ASG targeted children for recruitment in combat or auxiliary roles.

The State Department noted that last May the United Nations identified the ASG, NPA, and MILF as among the world’s “persistent violators of children in armed conflicts.”

The report said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent government agency, investigated 53 new complaints of politically motivated killings involving 67 victims during the year.

The CHR suspected PNP and AFP personnel in some killings of leftist activists operating in rural areas. Suspects in other cases were ordinary citizens or remained unknown.

The PNP’s Task Force Usig (TFU), responsible for monitoring unexplained killings, has recorded 161 cases of killings since 2001.

The TFU, which uses different criteria than the CHR, identified nine new cases of unexplained killings during the year.

The report said journalism continues to be a dangerous profession in the Philippines.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) reported eight journalists killed during the year, four in the line of duty. The TFU, which also tracks killings of media practitioners, classified two of these cases as work-related killings.

The TFU has recorded 39 media practitioners slain in work-related killings since 2001; this total does not include the 31 media members killed in the Maguindanao massacre, which was monitored by a special task force.

The report said human rights organizations frequently criticized the government for failing to protect journalists. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines accused the police and the government of failing to investigate adequately these killings and of subjecting journalists to harassment and surveillance.

In some situations it was difficult to discern if violence against journalists was carried out in retribution for their profession or if these journalists were the victims of random crime, the report added.

The 2010 report is the 35th in a series to provide awareness of the human rights situation around the world. The data is provided to the US Congress for its funding and policy decisions.

“Here at the State Department Human Rights is a priority 365 days a year,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Institutional deficiencies

In the same report, it was also cited that the 132,577-member PNP has deep-rooted institutional deficiencies and suffered from a widely held and accurate public perception that corruption remained a problem in the agency.

The report said that “the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service remained largely ineffective.”

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) directs the PNP, which is responsible for law enforcement and urban counter-terrorism. However, governors, mayors, and other local officials have considerable influence over local police units.

“Members of the PNP were regularly accused of torture, soliciting bribes, and other illegal acts. Efforts were underway to reform and professionalize the institution through improved training, expanded community outreach, and pay raises,” the report said.

In 2010, the report cited 69 administrative cases filed against 97 members of the police force, including administrative officials and police officers, for various human rights violations. Out of the 69 cases filed, 61 were resolved and eight were undergoing summary proceedings.

The PNP dismissed 12 persons in connection with these cases. The deputy ombudsman for the military received 67 cases enforcement officers from January to July, the majority of which were filed against low-ranking police and military officials. All of the cases were under investigation by the Deputy Ombudsman’s Office as of August.

Likewise, there were alleged instances of rape perpetrated by PNP officials but “unlike in previous years, there were no anecdotal reports of an increase in rape and sexual abuse charges filed against officers,” it said.

The report said CHR observed that senior PNP officials appeared receptive to respecting the human rights of detainees, but rank-and-file awareness of detainee rights remained inadequate.

The Commission on Appointments determines whether senior military officers selected for promotion have a history of human rights violations and solicits input from the CHR and other agencies through background investigations. –Jose Katigbak , STAR Washington Bureau (The Philippine Star) with Pia Lee-Brago

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