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Oral intervention to the UN Human Rights Council on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines

03 June 2008

3 June 2008, 8th session of the Human Rights Council

This is a joint statement by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), and the Philippine NGO delegation.

Mr. President, we take this occasion to thank Professor Alston for his meticulous research and intensive study of the documents, interviews and evidence he was able to gather in his mission to the Philippines to look into the spate of extrajudicial killings that have and continue to plague our country. We commend and fully support his findings during his 10 day-investigative mission.

Prof. Alston concluded that "two underlying causes are the reasons behind these killings: a counter-insurgency program being carried out by the administration, and no convictions being made against perpetrators."

Indeed, Prof. Alston in his report correctly and succinctly concluded that state security forces have been involved in many of the killings of left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, trade union and farmer leaders and civil society organization members and that the military remains in a "state of denial" over these killings.

This conclusion of a UN special mandate holder does not speak well of a member of this august Council that is supposed to set the highest standards of human rights promotion and protection among the members states, and has in fact, pledged voluntarily to maintain and practice such standards.

One year after the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos, an activist denied by the military to be under their custody, Dr. Edita Burgos, his mother, who is here again with our NGO delegation for this session, is still looking for her son.

Mr. President, may we know from the Special Rapporteur if there have been any indications from the Philippine government if changes have been made in the counter-insurgency program it is implementing since this is one of the reasons that engenders the killings and other human rights violations? May we know what the government response is to his recommendations of abolishing the IALAG? We are interested to know of the response of the government to the special rapporteur's recommendations in general.

May we also know what steps have been taken on the case of the witness to the special rapporteur who was killed after giving her testimony?

Mr. President, this year alone, our organization has already documented a total of 13 victims of extrajudicial killings and two victims of enforced disappearances and many victims of abductions. Reports of military abuses have already displaced thousands of villagers in Mindanao, Samar, Quezon and Negros islands, as well as other forms of violations happening in the militarized areas.

Human rights defenders who document these cases have received heightened threats and harassments. The labeling as "communist fronts" of civil society organizations by military and other government agencies, which Prof. Alston recommended that it stop, continues nonetheless to this day.

Mr. President, during the Philippine UPR, the government had reported of measures to address the killings. However, up to now we have yet to see a perpetrator convicted and punished for the crime. The enumerated measures, we feel, will not solve the problem unless the counter-insurgency policy changes and the other recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur are seriously carried out.

Further, may we know what the Council will do to ensure that our government will work in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur to implement the recommendations Prof. Alston has drawn up?

We urge this body to thoroughly review the record of the Philippine state in upholding the rights of its citizens. Let not the cries for justice of the victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations fall on deaf ears and exacerbate the conflict in the land. For it is when looking the other way while human rights violations are committed and not doing anything to correct them that our own humanity is eroded and justice becomes a mockery.

We reiterate our call for this body to keep pursuing our government to stop the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations by adopting and genuinely carrying out the recommendations of Prof. Alston. We exhort this body to show more resolve in truly and effectively putting to task its members in upholding and respecting the rights of its own people.

Thank you, Mr. President