FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2007
A Joint Statement submitted by the World Council of Churches, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC) to the 6th Human Rights Council
PHILIPPINES: Extrajudicial killings
Thank you Mr. President.
This statement is supported by the World Council of Churches, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. The entire Philippine NGO delegation expresses our thanks to them.
In March of this year, the UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston reported his initial findings on the extrajudicial executions in the Philippines and we were glad that the government finally allowed such visit although government officials assailed Prof. Alston’s initial report.
On several occasions, the Philippine government has announced that it has implemented measures to address the issue as well as other violations in the country. We most respectfully posit that these measures did not and will not resolve the killings. As Mr. Alston in his report last March correctly pointed out, the question of resources or technical expertise will partly resolve the killings but “the strong risk is that these measures will treat only some of the symptoms of the crisis, and will fail to address meaningfully two of the most important underlying causes of a great many of the killings.” (A/HRC/4/20/Add.3, March 22, 2007)
Professor Philip Alston went on to identify these two underlying causes as ‘vilification’, ‘labeling’, or guilt by association’, which “involves the characterization of most groups on the left of the political spectrum as ‘front organizations’ for armed groups whose aim is to destroy democracy” thereby rendering such groups to be “accordingly considered to be legitimate targets. The second cause is the extent to which aspects of the Government’s counter-insurgency strategy encourage or facilitate the extrajudicial killings of activists and other ‘enemies’ in certain circumstances.”
In fact, from January to July 2007, there were 60 cases of extrajudicial executions, from January to June 2007 there were 17 cases of disappearances, 12 cases of torture, 113 cases of illegal arrests and thousands became victims of forced evacuation. We fear that the situation will exacerbate with the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law on July 15, of this year.
Among the Philippine NGO delegation now here in Geneva for this session is Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos, an agriculturist helping farmers in the country. Jonas was abducted on April 28 of this year and up to now he remains missing. That is why Mrs. Burgos and other members of our NGO delegation made the long trip here to Geneva to beseech this Council to prevail upon the Philippine government to make good its commitments in the pledges it made to the General Assembly when it sought reelection to this Council in May of this year.
Mr. President, on September 21, the Filipino people recalled the imposition of martial law in our country 35 years ago in 1972. The impunity by which violations were committed by state security forces at that time continues to this day even as martial law survivors have not been recognized and indemnified by this administration which just made promises to do so.
No perpetrator of such heinous crimes against humanity of that dictatorial period has ever been punished to this day. We hope that the same will not be applied by Pres. Arroyo to the violators under her watch.
Again, to quote Mr. Alston, “these recommendations [measures that government has undertaken to address the killings] will make little difference unless there is a 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.”
Mr. President, our country has long been depicted as a democracy in Southeast Asia and as such it must be compelled to adhere to human rights standards and international humanitarian laws. It must resolve cases of human rights violations and render justice to victims. We hope that the Human Rights Council bear this record in mind when the Philippine government is reviewed under the UPR.
I thank you Mr. President.#
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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.