EU Parliament Says Political Killings in Philippines a Growing Problem

Apr. 28, 2007

In a resolution on the Philippines, adopted by 68 votes to 0 with 0 abstentions, Parliament draws attention to the number of politically motivated killings in the country, which it says has risen dramatically in recent years, as well as the general human rights situation in the country.

The local human rights organisation Karapatan has recorded 180 forced disappearances and over 800 killings, most of them by unidentified gunmen, since 2001. Most of those killed, such as opposition party members, church people, community leaders, peasants, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, trade unionists, have been accused by the government of being front organisations for illegal armed groups and ‘terrorists’.

In a positive development, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has appointed a high-level independent commission to examine the problem and a national-level police task force to investigate the killings. The commission’s findings indicate army involvement in the political killings. In response to its recommendations, President Arroyo has issued a 6-point plan to stop the killings. However, MEPs believe all this is far from enough.

Authorities urged to investigate rise in political killings

In its resolution Parliament expresses “grave concern at the increasing number of political killings that have occurred in recent years in the Philippines and “urges the Philippine authorities to make the necessary investigations in a timely, thorough and transparent manner and to bring those responsible to justice”.

It also “condemns in the strongest terms the murder of Ms Siche Bustamante-Gandinao, a dedicated human rights activist.and is concerned about the lack of any police investigation concerning this important case”.

Anti-terrorism measures likely to lead to arbitrary arrests

MEPs believe that “the adoption of the Human Security Act 2007, which will enter into force in July 2007, is liable to further increase the incidence of human rights violations by the Security Forces because it will allow arrest without warrant and arbitrary detention”. Parliament also “denounces attacks on legal opposition groups”.

It welcomes the progress made but says the government must “adopt measures to end the systematic intimidation and harassment of witnesses in connection with prosecutions for killings” and “ensure truly effective witness protection”.

It is also important “to stop inciting violence towards certain political or civil-society groups and to restore normal accountability mechanisms to check government abuses”. The Ombudsman is urged to “take seriously his constitutional role in responding to extrajudicial killings attributed to public officials”.

Abolition of death penalty welcomed

While welcoming the signing by President Arroyo of legislation abolishing the death penalty in the Philippines, the EP calls on the Philippines to ratify the newly adopted UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Call for freedom of political expression ahead of elections

The climate of impunity “has a corrosive impact on public confidence in the rule of law” and the killings are “creating a climate in which people in the Philippines cannot feel free to exercise their rights of political expression and association”, says the resolution. The President is urged to “take immediate action in order to prevent the risk of further escalation of violence before and during the upcoming polls”.

Lastly, those applying for the redistribution of land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme must be protected and indeed the land reform programme must be accelerated in order to curb one of the root causes of political violence, say MEPs. (EU Parliament News Service)

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