PHILIPPINES: An open letter to President Arroyo by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005 

Fax: +63 2 736 1010

Dear President Arroyo,

Re: Did you discuss extrajudicial killings with Pope Benedict?

The is writing this letter after seeing a press photograph of your self with Pope Benedict, where the Pope is holding a copy of the new law abolishing the death penalty in the Philippines.

In the news report accompanying the photograph, you are quoted as having informed the Pope on the abolition of the death penalty and other important issues. The AHRC would like to know whether you also informed the Pope of the numerous extrajudicial killings taking place in the Philippines. In fact, the percentage of killings in the Philippines ranks among the highest in Asia. Pope Benedict will naturally have a keen interest in this matter, with the first commandment being ‘thou shall not kill’.

The abolition of the death penalty is certainly laudable. It is a mark of respect for life and recognition that the right to take away life does not belong to any individual or institution. When the state arrogates this right, it is committing a gross abuse. It is therefore an important historical achievement for a state to end such a practice.

Your government deserves to take credit for this, together with the many persons, in the Philippines and elsewhere, who have fought for many years to abolish the death sentence.  The significance attached to this is lost however, when the same government continues to engage in extrajudicial killings. Since the beginning of 2004, approximately 290 people have been thus killed in the Philippines.

Pope Benedict will also be interested to know that priests, nuns and activists from Christian organisations have been among the persons killed. It has been the consistent policy of the church that every human being should concern themselves with the welfare of others, particularly of the poor. It is persons who believe in this doctrine that are being mercilessly killed in the Philippines.  The church also believes in the sacredness of life, and that people deserve to be treated with dignity even in death. The persons being extrajudicially killed in the Philippines are treated with contempt in life as well as death; to guarantee immunity to the perpetrators, these persons are often buried in secret.

The AHRC urges you to bring this matter to the attention of Pope Benedict even at this late stage, and to inform him whether you, as the head of state, are determined to end these killings immediately. It is a matter of concern for all humanity that no extrajudicial killings occur in any country. Recent history of the Philippines itself shows people’s repugnance to cruel behaviour.

The AHRC looks forward to learning that your government has effectively stopped extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Yours sincerely,

Basil Fernando
Executive Director

cc: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Document Type : Open Letter
Document ID : AHRC-OL-019-2006
Countries : Philippines,
Campaigns : Stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines