Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 28      August 20 - 26, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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UN Body Set to Hear Rights Complaints vs Arroyo

Rights watchdogs led by Karapatan are set to file complaints and reports with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next month. The complaints over the spate of political killings will ask Macapagal-Arroyo to account for the killings which have to date claimed the lives of 729 persons.

By Bulatlat

Just as the Macapagal-Arroyo government is hounded by international protests over the spate of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, victims’ relatives and rights groups are set to file complaints against the Macapagal-Arroyo government with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and other world bodies.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said in a statement Aug. 19 that rights watchdogs and relatives of victims of political murders have vowed to make embattled President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo accountable for the killings.

She made the statement on the heels of the junking by the House committee on justice of the second impeachment complaint which is based partly on alleged human rights violations. Karapatan, along with the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), Desaparecidos and relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings and disappearances are set to file complaints and reports with the UNHRC when it convenes in Geneva in September.

The UNHRC conference will allow representatives of victims’ relatives and rights groups a fair hearing, Hilao-Enriquez said.

Two weeks ago, the UNHCR also warned the Philippine government of its failure to comply with UN laws requiring the submission of human rights reports since 1992.

November deadline

In its concluding observations in 2003, the UNHRC lined up several questions on the Philippine government's poor performance in its compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  The UN body instructed the Philippine government to reply to these observations on Nov. 1 this year. 

Karapatan is also set to lobby for the review of the pledges the government promised as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

According to the rights alliance, 729 persons, many of them confirmed to be identified with cause-oriented organizations and progressive party-list groups, were killed extra-judicially allegedly by military, paramilitary and police forces since Macapagal-Arroyo took power in early 2001. The number does not include 181 abduction cases during the same period.

Reports of political killings, where not one case has been investigated or suspects brought to courts, have increasingly alarmed international bodies. Nobel Peace Prize winner Amnesty International, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s Papal Nuncio in Manila, the International Parliamentary Union and several other groups in Europe, the United States and other countries have criticized the Macapagal-Arroyo government for its failure to rein in its security forces over the killings.

The U.S. government has also been asked to withdraw its support for the Philippine president because of the unabated killings, among others.

Following the junking of the impeachment complaint against the embattled president last week, calls were made to bring Macapagal-Arroyo to an international war crimes tribunal where she will be made to account for her responsibility over the killings.

"The people are once again denied a remedy to stop human rights abuses by the Arroyo government,” Hilao-Enriquez said in her statement. “However, this will not stop us from finding ways to make her accountable for her transgressions."

Reports reveal that the political murders of activists, organizers, lawyers, rights volunteers, church leaders and other persons could be the handiwork of security forces under the four-year old Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan Freedom Watch).

The OBL seeks to end the 37-year long Marxist rebellion. But critics have said that the military blueprint, which was approved by the president’s Cabinet Oversight Committee for Internal Security (COC-IS), led by a former Marcos colonel, now Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, should be blamed for the political killings. Leaders and members of cause-oriented organizations, who have called for Macapagal-Arroyo’s ouster, have been the targets of the attacks.


Also on Aug. 17, families of the victims lambasted Arroyo's allies in the House for resorting to victim-blaming in order to justify the junking of the impeachment complaint. 

"All they said was that complainants were at fault for filing the complaint and they even shielded Arroyo for abetting human rights violations, the substance of the complaint being lodged against her.  We did not even get a hearing," said Evangeline Hernandez, mother of slain human rights worker Benjaline and one of the citizen complainants.

Relatives of victims and KARAPATAN said the battle is far from over and they will continue to cry out for justice and campaign against the Macapagal-Arroyo government's “terrorism.”

At the fifth monthly gathering of families, friends and colleagues of victims of killings and disappearances in Quezon City, Enriquez said, "Ultimately, our people will make this government accountable by invoking their right to rise up against the tyrant that is Gloria Arroyo, just like what they did to the hated dictator Marcos."

The gathering was held at the launching of an internationally-released book, “Stop the Killings in the Philippines.” Bulatlat 



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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