At UN Human Rights Council, Alston Blasts Arroyo, Military

Mar. 28, 2007

Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who visited the country in February to investigate the killings of political activists, said on Tuesday that he has little reason to be optimistic that the killings will stop.

He severely criticized the Philippine military, saying that there is a need for “fundamental change of heart on the part of the military or the emergence of civilian resolve to compel the military to change its ways. Then, and only then, will it be possible to make real progress in ending the killings.”

He likewise hinted that the military tried to manipulate him by relentlessly pushing the line that the killings were done by the New People’s Army. “I was provided a list of 1,227 names, dates, and places of individuals alleged to have been killed by the CPP or NPA. Despite numerous requests for any substantiating documentation of any of these cases, virtually none was provided. A list of unsubstantiated assertions is, needless to say, nearly useless,” Alston said.

The government, meanwhile, tried to save face by preempting Alston’s report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Statement by Prof Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Human Rights Council, 27 March 2007

Specific Country: The Philippines

I visited the Philippines in February 2007. Again I met with a wide range of government officials, including the President and with many members of civil society. The government was fully cooperative.

When I completed my visit to the Philippines, I commented that the military “remains in a state of almost total denial… of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.” I added that the President “needs to persuade the military that its reputation and effectiveness will be considerably enhanced, rather than undermined, by acknowledging the facts and taking genuine steps to investigate.”

One month later, I have little reason for optimism. The impact of my visit, although I have not yet completed my final report, has been deeply schizophrenic. On the one hand, the President has taken a range of positive initiatives, many of which i list in my preliminary note to the council. On the other hand, the military and many key officials have buried their collective heads in the sand and announced that business will continue as usual.

To give a colorful and somewhat amusing example, the Defense Secretary said last week that “Alston won`t pay attention. He is blind, mute and deaf. We can`t do anything about that.” He was apparently upset that I still do not accept the military`s line that the leftist activists are being systematically killed as part of continuing communist purges of their own supporters. The Chief of Staff of the armed forces has been eloquent but equally dismissive. Part of me appreciates the substitution of frank insults for the usual diplomatic platitudes, but anyone reading between the lines will receive a far more disturbing message: those government officials who must act decisively if the killings are to end, still refuse to accept that there is even a problem.

Until my final report is available I do not wish to dwell at length today on the steps that I believe are required. I want to address instead the issues that were most prominent in my statement to the press before leaving the Philippines.

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