Strong international pressure against GMA's reeking human rights record is behind decrease in killings

As we tremble at the thought that the President and Commander-In-Chief doesn't have any compunction in violating human rights - as evidenced by the police's abduction yesterday at the airport of a rich and known personality like Mr. Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., star witness to the anomalous ZTE deal -- we are enraged at the systematic, brazen deception that this regime put out to cover up gross human rights violations.

At the beginning of 2008, extrajudicial killings have continued, victimizing a carpenter in Masbate, an-ex political prisoner in Bohol, a protestant pastor in Leyte and recently, ten residents of Maimbung in Sulu.  Enforced disappearances likewise continue and those victims during the six-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have yet to be surfaced.

It is contemptible that Mrs. Arroyo praises the PNP and credits them for the decrease in the number of extrajudicial killings two days after the nation's erstwhile prime police force announced that it expunged from its list 635 victims of "unexplained killings" from a supposed Karapatan list. Now it becomes evident why the PNP's Task Force Usig went to such great lengths.

To them, it is as easy as changing the term extrajudicial to "unexplained" killing so as to evade liability.  They also make it very easy to "de-list" names to bring down the number for they are only concerned about statistics and wanted to engage in the numbers game.

To us, what they have done is utterly wicked because this means that the excluded victims will have no chance of ever getting any justice whatsoever.  The victims were already killed through a national policy called Oplan Bantay Laya, and with the removal from the list, the police would have them erased even from national memory.

It is no jest that among human rights workers, the PNP TF Usig has been called "Task Force Usig Karapatan."  Since its establishment, the task force has been viciously attacking and discrediting Karapatan's data.  Last time we looked, the reason why it was formed in the first place is to INVESTIGATE the killings of political activists and media persons.  Before any investigation has occurred they have already announced their conclusion that state security forces are not complicit.  We reiterate that the military and the police are doing these violations. 

After almost two years of existence, we can only hear our police officers say that to the PNP "once we have filed a case against the suspects in court, we consider the case closed."  To the PNP, this means, it is not important whether the suspects were apprehended or not or whether the suspects are the real perpetrators or just fall guys. Voila! As easy as that!

In our 2007 report, Karapatan's documentation revealed that the victims of extrajudicial executions has gone down for the year – 68 (January-Oct. 31, 2007) -- and this we attributed to the strong international pressure generated by the outrage over the killings and Arroyo's reeking human rights record. This gave strong support to the victims' continuing quest for justice and to the resistance of the Filipino people to Arroyo's martial law.

One of the strongest pressures generated was the independent damning report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions Prof. Philip Alston.  In fact, it became problematic for Malacañang that the Presidnet sent no less than Gen. Ermita to New York in October 2007 when Alston delivered his report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.

International pressure was also shown at the Permanent People's Tribunal at The Hague which found the GMA and Bush administration guilty of the crimes of gross and systematic violations of human rights, economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people's sovereignty.    The tribunal's report was sent to the UN system and other organizations. 

The US Senate investigation, the international conferences on the killings in the country, e.g. the Ecumenical Voice which traveled to Canada and the US talking with parliamentarians and bringing their report all the way to the Human Rights Council in Geneva has also lent their voices in condemning the killings and human rights violations.

Several international human rights organizations like the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, FIDH, Front Line, AHRC, including the International Parliamentarians Union have condemned the violations as well. 

For the President, who commands the entire armed force of the country, to be praising the police force which has been more complicit in covering up a heinous crime against humanity rather than doing its mandate of protection not only smacks of callousness, but outright deception.  She chooses to drown out the outrage and deceive the international community and the public by saying a barefaced lie that the police work has caused the decrease in the killings. This is a very dangerous situation especially considering the fact that the victims of extrajudicial executions are vocal critics of the President's policies.

We continue to call on the public and the international community to remain vigilant and defiant.

Stop the killings!

Surface the Disappeared!

End the murderous regime of Gloria Arroyo!

Justice for all victims of human rights violations!