That the Philippines police task force (Usig) should resolve at least ten cases of alleged extrajudicial killings within ten weeks was the statement reported to have been made by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Other reports quoting persons from the presidential palace could not clearly state whether this was an order or just a public relations statement. Even if it is taken as an order the carrying out of investigations into over 700 alleged cases of extrajudicial killings, excluding the three killings reported this week, will take the task force over 14 years. How many more extrajudicial killings will happen within that time frame is anyone’s guess.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns this statement as it lacks the seriousness and the dignity that is required of a head of state attempting to resolve perhaps the greatest problem that the country is faced with. The president’s statement is not adequate enough to make the investigating authorities take all steps necessary to investigate each and every allegation of extrajudicial killings as promptly as possible. The statement fails also to give a direct command to the military authorities to stop such killings altogether. The lack of such a direct command in the face of heavy accusations coming from many quarters, including church sources, will naturally be interpreted by the military as tacit approval for the ongoing pogrom.
When a university professor accused the government earlier this week of maintaining a policy of causing extrajudicial killings the response giving by the spokesman from the palace was that the government does not have such a policy but, what it does have is a policy of wiping out some elements from the villages. Whatever meaning the palace may give to the words, ‘wiping out’ in simple military jargon, what it means is elimination, which in turn implies killings, disappearances etc. However, the issue is not whether the government has an express policy on this matter but the fact that the government’s failure to stop these extrajudicial killings amounts to what can be seen as tacit approval for them to continue. President Macapagal Arroyo’s statement about solving ten cases in ten weeks is itself is an indication of the government’s unwillingness to take a clear and unequivocable position on this matter.
The indication of the existence of an ongoing pogrom of extrajudicial killings becomes manifest through the following factors:
- The allowing of vehicles to move without number plates and tinted glass wind shields so that the drivers cannot be identified; in all countries where they have been pogroms of extrajudicial killings and disappearances the use of similar vehicles has been a common feature. If the driving of any such vehicle is stopped by proper legal means, and the movements of such vehicles are properly investigated, not only would the number of killings be reduced but the story of who is behind the killings could be revealed.
- The lack of a high level of military inquiries into the alleged pogrom of killings widely reported to be carried out by military leaders such as Major General Jovito Palparan. If the allegations are true to it would hardly be within the possibility of a police task force to investigate such an operation. In all regular military forces there are units to investigate the alleged wrongs done by the military itself. The military high command and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, who is the president, have failed to initiate such high level inquiries into the alleged violations.
- The police task force, reportedly working on a monthly budget of Pesos 300,000.00 (US 6,000.00) with limited personnel and resources, is not capable of investigating the vast number of allegations that are being made at the moment. This week alone there were reports of three further killings, with another person being seriously injured. If prompt inquiries are to be conducted the resource limitations need to be dealt with. However, there seems to be no indication that the government is taking any such action.
- Statements from the police authorities show that the extrajudicial killings are seen as “part of a war”. This means that a war mentality has set in and those who engage in such killings have been made to believe that they are indeed part of a war. Once such a mentality is in place large scale extrajudicial killings of this nature are no surprise. Without returning to the language of law and order in place of war propaganda there can be no reduction of this type of killings. The elementary step needed to reduce the heat and the psychological ethos that is necessary for killing is to displace this war propaganda.
- There is also no indication of preventive measures in order to stop further killings. Initiatives on the part of the government carried out through state media and other media to bring this situation to a halt is not taking place at all. The statements made under public pressure like the one regarding ten investigations in ten weeks only pass a contrary message.
Although there is intense local pressure and international pressure to stop extrajudicial killings the actions taken by the government so far does not indicate any form of resoluteness to bring such gross human rights abuses to an end. Both local pressure and international pressure, including that from UN agencies, different governments and also civil society movements should intensify, demanding a more serious and dignified response from the government of the Philippines in keeping with its obligations under its own Constitution as well as the international treaties to which it is a party.
Kindly sign on to AHRC’s online petition concerning extra-judicial killings in the Philippines at: http://www.pinoyhr.net/