UN: Counter-insurgency strategy explains extrajudicial killings in Philippines

MANILA, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- A United Nations official has blamed the Philippine government's counter-insurgency strategy against leftist rebels as the reason for a large number of extrajudicial killings to have taken place in the country, according to a UN report published here on Sunday.

Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, recently submitted a 21-page interim report to the 62nd UN General Assembly, which is entitled "Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions".

He said in the report that killings of leftist activists have drastically increased in the last six years in the Philippines.

"These killings have eliminated key civil society leaders, including human rights defenders, trade unionists, land reform advocates and others, intimidated a vast number of civil society actors and narrowed the country's political discourse. Depending on who is counting and how, the total number of such executions ranges from over 100 to over 800," Alston said in his report.

He noted that "counter-insurgency strategy and recent changes in the priorities of the criminal justice system are of special importance to understanding why the killings continue."

Alston made a fact-finding mission to the Philippines in February and reported to the 4th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March that an "order of battle" document against left-wing insurgents has been adopted and practiced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

An order of battle, he explained, is an organizational tool used by the military intelligence to list and analyze its enemy units.

He said the document, co-signed by senior military and police officials, calls upon "all members of the intelligence community...to adopt and be guided by this update to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the CPP-NPA/NDF (Communist Part of the Philippines-New People's Army/National Democratic Front)."

Alston said the document, some 110 pages in length, lists hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified on the basis of intelligence as members of organizations which the military deems illegitimate.

The UN rapporteur also maintained in his report to the UN General Assembly that the military is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers were implicated.

He rejected the AFP's claim that the left-wing insurgents of NPA perpetrate most of the killings through internal purge. He also expressed alarm on the number of Filipino journalists being killed with increasing frequency "as a result of the prevailing impunity together with the structure of the media industry."

Alston added that disputes between peasants and landowners, as well as armed groups, lead to killings in the context of agrarian reform efforts, and the police often provide inadequate protection to the peasants involved.

He lamented that a number of street children are being killed in broad daylight by a death squad that operates in Davao City in southern Philippines.

Alston also said in the on-going armed conflicts in western Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, "serious abuses clearly do occur and that improved monitoring mechanisms are necessary."