Mayo 11, 2007

Phl - NGOs, militants seek special UN court on killings

MANILA, Philippines -- The European Union and the United Nations should form a special court to try the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the extrajudicial killings in the country, the Concerned Citizens of the Philippines said Friday.

Some 200 members of the group, led by former Transportation and Communication Secretary Josie Lichauco, Bettina Legarda, Marilyn Orosa, national artist Bienvenido Lumbera, Nini Quezon-Avanceña, and lawyer Harry Roque, staged a rally in front of the office of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines at the RCBC Plaza on Ayala Avenue.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) joined the action in support of the concerned citizens' call. Legal leftist organizations have borne the brunt of the killings, which human rights groups estimate have claimed close to 900 lives since Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Other groups that joined the march and rally were Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights), Free Jonas Burgos Movement, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Catholic Lay Preachers of the Philippines, and Kubol Pag-asa (Hut of Hope) were some of the organizations which participated in the rally.

Opposition senatorial candidate Sonia Rocco, widow of late senator Raul Rocco, also joined the march.

As the protesters massed in front of the Yuchengco Tower, former Social Welfare secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, Roque, Edith Burgos, widow of press icon Jose "Joe" Burgos Jr. and mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, daughter of former president Corazon Aquino, Lichauco and Quezon-Avanceña met with Gabriel Munuera Viñals, head of political, economic, trade and public affairs section of the EU delegation and submitted a manifesto seeking the creation of the special court.

They were assured the manifesto would be submitted to EU Ambassador Alistair MacDonald.

MacDonald has announced the scheduled visit of a team of experts from EU member-countries on June 4 to assess the needs of the Philippine government so that it could stop and solve various human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances.

Viñals said his office is going "beyond condemnation" with the planned EU mission to the Philippines this June.

"I received the manifesto in behalf of Ambassador MacDonald. I told them that we have gone beyond condemnation...We are not only condemning the killings but actually doing something to help stop the killings," he told

Soliman said the meeting "went very well."

"They [EU] will study what is proposed in the manifesto," said Roque, adding that the EU has expressed its sentiments on the extrajudicial killings in the country, calling these a matter of "utmost importance and concern."

In the meantime, the EU has pledged to send technical assistance to help in the "monitoring and reporting" of extrajudicial killings and the forced disappearances of militant leaders, said Roque.

However, Roque stressed that time was of the essence as the killings continue unabated.

"We hope that the international community will not wait too long," said Roque, adding he hoped the Philippines does not become another Rwanda, where up to 800,000 people are believed to have been killed in a genocide before the international community took notice.

Orosa said they decided to submit the manifesto because of the Arroyo's "inability to stop and solve the killings and kidnappings of young activists."

"The manifesto is an offshoot of a May 3 forum on extra-judicials killings. A professor told us in that forum that we were just talking and that talking wouldn't solve the killings so we agreed to draft a manifesto," Lichauco said.

Lichauco said she and others went as private citizens who want to do something to stop the killings.

"It was [Thomas] Jefferson who said that the first and only object of government is care for human life. We are talking of people's lives here. Life has become cheap in the Philippines, and as private citizens we wanted to do something to stop these killings and abductions of young activists," she told

"There is no doubt in our minds that the Philippine president is responsible, by virtue of command responsibility, for the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of activists since 2001," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.

Reyes said stronger sanctions by the international community against the Arroyo government were needed. He said this included withdrawal of military aid.

"It is apparent that the shaming mechanism of the UN and other international bodies is simply being ignored by Arroyo" he said.

The KMP urged the EC delegation to also talk to the families and organizations of the victims.

"This is to ensure that the Arroyo government would not bombard the mission with black propaganda and so that the mission can see the real human rights situation in the country. We ardently hope that the EU mission can help stop the killings and forced disappearances and help seek justice for the victims," said KMP spokesman Carl Ala.

Ala said any mission that sought to help stop the killings and abductions must be "victim-centered." "Paano lalapit ang witnesses kung gobyerno mismo pumapatay? So magiging useless pagpunta ng EU mission kung ganoon lang gagawin nila [How can the witnesses approach a government that is responsible for the killings? The EU mission would be useless if they would only talk to the government]," he said.

"The justice system has already collapsed," Dulce Sepeda, a Concerned Citizens member, said. She also complained that authorities tasked to investigate these cases are "not moving" and that "they are probably the ones involved."

Posted by marga at Mayo 11, 2007 4:12 PM | TrackBack
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