2007: Killings Decrease, but Rights Violations Continue

Vol. VII, No. 44, Dec. 9-15, 2007

Based on its 2007 Human Rights Report, the number of extrajudicial killings documented by Karapatan this year is the lowest so far under the Arroyo regime. Human rights violations, however, continue.

Based on its 2007 Human Rights Report, the number of extrajudicial killings documented by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) for this year is the lowest so far under the Arroyo regime. Human rights violations, however, continue.

Released in a news conference in Quezon City last Dec. 3, Karapatan’s 2007 Human Rights Report shows a total of 887 victims extrajudicial killings from January 2001 – when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising – to October 2007. Of these 99 were killed in 2001, 118 in 2002, 123 in 2003, 83 in 2004, 187 in 2005, 209 in 2006, and 68 in 2007.

Meanwhile, there have been 185 victims of enforced disappearance from January 2001 to October 2007. Seven of them were disappeared in 2001, nine in 2002, 11 in 2003, 26 in 2004, 28 in 2005, 78 in 2006, and 26 in 2007. There is a noticeable increase in the number of victims enforced disappearances for every year from 2001 to 2006, and from 2006 to 2007 there is a sharp drop back to the 2004 level.

“Karapatan attributes the lowered figures to the successful campaign to bring to international attention the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the mounting pressure on Arroyo from the U.S. Senate, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, the diplomatic community and various local and international peoples’ organizations and human rights groups,” Karapatan secretary-general Marie Hilao-Enriquez said during the launching of her group’s report.

“The U.S.-Arroyo regime has been put on the defensive since 2006 and more so in 2007 as international censure forced it to account for its human rights record,” Enriquez also said.

International pressure

Karapatan and various people’s organizations have been campaigning since the early part of 2005 to bring the issue of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to international attention.

The campaign efforts first bore fruit in August 2005, when an International People’s Tribunal (IPT) convened at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City and found the Arroyo regime guilty of human rights violations.

In August 2006, in its report Philippines: Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning group Amnesty International (AI) lambasted the Arroyo administration for failing to undertake credible investigations into the extra-judicial killings. Referring to investigations conducted by Task Force Usig, AI expressed its concern “at persistent reports that the majority of investigations do not meet international standards as set forth in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, as supplemented by UN Manual on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions” and that the investigations “have reportedly not led to the conviction of any of the perpetrators of the hundreds of killings of leftist activists since 2001.”

The said AI report was followed by statements of concern, if not outright condemnation, from various other international groups like the Council of the European Union; the governments of Finland, Spain, France, Canada and, most recently, Japan; the World Council of Churches (WCC); the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC); the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC); the Uniting Church in Australia; the United Church of Christ in Canada; the United Methodist Church in the U.S.; and the Washington-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In an unprecedented move, the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, comprising big business groups from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Japan and Korea, and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, called on the Arroyo government to put a stop to the killings or risk losing foreign investments.

A similar plea was made in a letter sent to Mrs. Arroyo later that was signed by officials of Wal-Mart and U.S.-based apparel companies Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, American Eagle Outfitters, Jones Apparel Group and Phillips Van Heusen.

In November 2006 Hustisya (Families of Victims of the Arroyo Regime United for Justice), Desaparecidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice), Selda (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Society of Ex-Detainees for Freedom from Detention and for Amnesty), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) charged Arroyo, U.S. President George W. Bush, and the Philippine and U.S. governments before the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) for gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights; gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights; and gross and systematic violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation. Trial was set for March 21-25, 2007.

On March 14, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, threatened to hold back foreign aid if the Arroyo government failed to act on the human rights violations under its watch. Sen. Barbara Boxer, chairperson of the Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said:

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