Human Rights Now Japan Ends Probe in Philippines

Apr. 21, 2007

HRN Fact finding team in Philippine April 2007

1 Human Rights Now, Tokyo Based international human rights NGO has conducted the investigation on extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance in the Philippines on 14-21 April, 2007. As Asian friend, Japanese civil society is very concerned the fact that substantial numbers of Filipino people have targeted of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance. Human Rights Now shares this very concern and decides to send fact finding mission to the Philippines.

We greatly appreciate kind cooperation given by all the sectors concerned. During our visit, we met with DILG senior personal, the Commission on Human Rights, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and several rights groups, especially Karapatan.

Also, very importantly, we have conducted thorough investigation of the alleged victims and relatives of the victims of extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance. We have interview on 15 cases of extrajudicial killings( total victims 26) , 3 cases of disappearances and 5 victims case of tortures.

2. Upon completion of the investigation, the fact finding team of HRN found that in most cases it has investigated, the military or police agency of this country is the one who is attributed to the killings, disappearances or tortures.

First, in certain cases we have investigated, we are convinced that the military is involved in the killing. One of the most obvious cases is Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 16 November 2004.

Second, there are certain cases that the witnesses directly pointed out the perpetrators. For example, we interviewed with a witness who saw the abduction of two students of University of the Philippines. The witness clearly states that he identified the perpetrator as military, 56th Infantry Battalion. We found this testimony is quite credible.

Third, in most cases, the systematic pattern and circumstantial evidences strongly suggest the connection between government and the killing. In most cases, prior to the killing, the victims were either profiled/ condemned as left or enemy of the state or given the threat / harassment.

Forth, as for torture, based on our interview with so called TAGAYTAY5, we have acknowledged the brutal abduction and torture was conducted by the state police agency in order to obtain the information of alleged their left activity.

In terms of the number of killing, we realize more evaluation and clarification is needed. However, the very important thing is that there are certain numbers of extrajudicial killing conducted by state agency. Also, it is our grave concern that despite of the fact above, perpetrators within the government are not brought to justice, and human rights violators within the government are enjoying impunity. All the victims relatives we saw were claiming that there is no justice and accountability, serious investigation on the killing of their beloved one.

3 We found that even after the UN Special Rapportuer Philippe Alstons country visit, the situation of the extrajudicial killing is not ameliorated. For instance, on March 31 of 2007, Grecil Buya, 9 year-old-girl was killed by Military in New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, Mindanao. We have conducted an interview with her parents, and found that her death was caused by the military attack on this innocent civilian girl. We do not believe the militarys allegation that she is a child soldier of NPA carrying M16 rifle, based on her educational record, her inability to carrying such rifle, and detailed testimony of her parents. It is our disappointment that neither pubic apology of military nor investigation against the perpetrator has been taken place after the incident. We condemn the killing and impunity on this case.

4 We emphasize the gravity of this human rights violation. In the cases we investigate, the victims includes highly respected lawyers, human rights activists, union leaders, church bishop, city counselor, barangay captain and left activists. Most of them usually speak out for rights on behalf of ordinary citizens. Such killing creates fear among the people and cause chilling effect on the entire society. It would undermine the actual freedom of expression, and ultimately, democratic society as a whole.

We have obtained the document of Oplan Bantay Laya and appendix. According to the documents, OBL does not differentiate between NPA and legal organization as the target of counter insurgency, and try to neutralize the target in certain period. However, civilian activists must not be labeled as NPA nor targeted by States. It is the basic principle of international humanitarian law that civilian who is not directly participate into the armed conflict should not be a target of armed attack. The government must strictly differentiate armed group and civilian activists, and respect/ protect the right to life of the latter at any circumstances.

5 We have to express the concern of the remedy for the human rights violation. Despite the fact that Former General Parparan was pointed out as the responsible one of the successive killings in the Melo Commission report, no prosecution against him has been filed so far. Impunity of government official is still widely prevailing.

When we met a high rank personal of DILG, Undersecretary Melchor Rosales, he stated that there is no extrajudicial killing in this country, but only unexplained killing. Also, he stated the police have been conducting human rights education periodically after the Marcos Era and there is no need to be requested additional measure by the UN Special Rapportuer.

We have to say that the government of the Philippines does not fulfill its obligation to prevent the recurrence of extrajudicial killing and forced disappearance so far. Each killing is not isolated incident, but systematic pattern of human rights violation. In order to redress, the state is not enough to depend on the procedure of the special courts. The state should conduct thorough, effective and transparent investigation with victims full participation as well as with international monitoring and technical assistance as appropriate.

6. Under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, State has obligation to respect and protect human rights of all the people within its jurisdiction. State should refrain from any conduct of human rights violation, especially violation of right to life, and also it should protect the people from all form of human rights violation by taking measure including investigating and prosecuting human rights violators. There is of course an issue of human rights violation by non state actor in this country. However, the fact that non state actor is committing human rights violation is not a justification for state to violate its own obligation on human rights.

We call upon the Philippine government

1) To immediately stop the policy targeting civilian organization and individual activists.

2) To conduct or resume a thorough criminal investigation on the all cases of alleged extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance

3) To conduct thorough, effective and transparent investigation of truth, cause and remedy of the human rights violation with victims full participation as well as with international monitoring and technical assistance as appropriate.

4) To adhere all international human rights and humanitarian law

7. As the largest giver of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines to date, the Japanese government has moral obligation to promote the protection of basic human rights in the recipient country, as stated in the existing principles in Japans ODA Charter. As stipulated in the four (4) principles of ODA implementation, full attention should be paid to efforts for promoting democratizationand the situation regarding the protection of basic human rights and freedoms to the recipient country.

Japanese prime minister has formally expressed the great concern among the Japanese on the human rights situation in the Philippines to President Arroyo on 9 December 2006. However, Philippine local press recently reports that two Governments may sign the Exchange of Notes of the 27th Yen loan Package on the occasion of President Arroyos coming visit to Japan in May. We overstate that unconditional provision of its ODA loan to the Philippines under this situation may send misleading message to the Philippine government that Japanese government endorse or condone the human rights policy of the government. ODA must not have any impact against human security, peace, stability and human rights.

We call upon the Japanese government,

1. To suspend the Yen loan agreement up until it recognizes the human rights situation and accountability mechanism has clearly improved.
2. To keep monitoring human rights situation and accountability mechanism in the Philippines, as well as conducting constructive dialogue on human rights with the Philippine government.
3. To raise the awareness on the situation within international community through stating the issue before the UN Human Rights Council.
8. Human Rights Now will issue the report of the fact finding mission within 2 months and send both Japanese and Philippine governments, and all states and rights group share concern. Human Rights Now is holding a conference and dialogues with the UN Special Rapportuer Philip Alston on this matter in Tokyo in coming May and raise awareness of this grave human rights violation both Japanese and International society.

~Protecting Human Rights for All~ Human Rights Now

Human Rights Now is the first Japanese international human rights NGO comprising a body of experienced legal professionals dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights around the world, with a special focus on Asia. The activity includes monitoring/ fact finding of human rights, human rights education and advocacy work.

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