EU ends mission, offers help on killings

Jun. 29, 2007

MANILA — Winding up a 10-day “needs assessment mission” to look into the extra-judicial killings in the country, the European group headed by European Union Ambassador Alistair Macdonald offered today “technical assistance” to the government in the investigation of the slayings, prosecution of the suspects and witness protection.

In a joint press conference with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita at the Malaca?ang Guest House this morning, MacDonald said the technical assistance will include the “training of the judiciary, as well as in relation to the work of the Commission on Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman”

Also present in the conference was Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had invited the European mission to visit the Philippines and assist the government in going to the bottom of the extra-judicial killings.

MacDonald stressed that it was the Philippine government that had “reiterated its determination to stamp out the plague of extra-judicial killings, and invited the EU to consider providing technical assistance to strengthen the capability of Philippine institutions to address these issues.”

The EU, he said, will also assist “with regard to possible training needs in human rights awareness for AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police).”

The six-man EU team of human rights experts also stressed the “vital role of civil society, including in areas such as information and monitoring, and as human rights defenders” and the “importance of engagement between government and civil society.”

The team also cited the need to ensure that “governments will to address this issue was matched by appropriate national budgetary resources.”

Ermita said that the government viewed the European mission “as an indication of the EUs recognition of the work that the Philippine government has been doing so far to address the issue of alleged or suspected extra-judicial killings.”

He said the Philippines welcomed the EU as a partner in resolving the controversial killings. Ermita also expressed appreciation for EUs timely response to the Philippine governments request for technical assistance.

He also thanked independent bodies and agencies in the Philippines, including the Commission on Human Rights, the Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman, for their participation in the preparation and discussions of the problem of the killings.

“This solidarity between colleagues in government is vital to successfully addressing these human rights violations,” he pointed out.

The Malaca?ang official said that the EU human rights experts “heard about the overall context in which these killings have taken place the national security concerns because of the two insurgencies we have been fighting for almost 40 years, the judicial system that is undergoing reforms, and the challenging socio-economic conditions of the Philippines.”

All of these factors, Ermita said, have contributed to the problem of extra-judicial killings and “therefore must be addressed as part of the solution.”

He said Philippine officials received some of the initial recommendations of the EU Group “with great interest and open minds.”

“The Philippines looks forward to the more detailed preliminary report of the mission in the coming weeks. We also look forward to actual concrete programs of partnership between our country and the EU,” he said.

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