Philippines Release Report on Political Killings

Responding to pressure from the United Nations and domestic critics,

the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo relented Thursday and

released an official report critical of the role of the Philippine military in

a spate of murders of political activists.

The release came a day after the UN Special Rapporteur on

political killings had criticized the government for its refusal to make the

report public.

Trying to put the best face on a situation in which elements

of the military have been held complicit in targeting above-ground leftist

activists for summary execution, government spokesman Ignacio Bunye called the

release a "milestone in our nation."

"For the first time in a generation, we have begun to

lift the veil on the violence that has beset our nation for far too long,"

he said. "This is a significant step forward to bringing perpetrators of

political violence to justice."

The report of the Melo Commission was completed in late

January but the palace initially refused to make it public.

Arroyo, whose administration has abandoned earlier policies

of reconciliation with leftist opponents in favor of what she has called “all-out

war,” pledged to stop the political killings in a statement.

“The nation must unite to bring down the curtain on a

generation of political violence and strengthen social order and justice. This

is about right and wrong, not about left or right,” she said.

The

report of the commission, chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo,

found evidence to suggest that the military was culpable in some killings. The

report blames rogue military elements without offering specific hard evidence.

"We have done our work. It is essentially a police work

now, finding and charging these people," Melo told Agence France-Presse.

"This is an eye opener for the security establishment ‑ that killings

exist and the military could be culpable."

On Wednesday Philip Alston, the UN Rapporteur, ended a 10-day

mission here saying that the armed forces “are in a state of almost total

denial” over the killings.

The release of the report is unlikely to settle long-running

bitterness over the existence of death squads blamed by human rights groups for

more than 800 killings since Arroyo took office in 2001.

Alston had said he could not name a figure for the number of

assassinations of leftists and but said it was substantial.

Arroyo’s Justice Secretary, Raul Gonzalez said earlier that

Alston had been “brainwashed” by leftists during his visit. Gonzalez added that

the Melo report was "based only on the stories coming from the left"

and ignored government evidence of alleged atrocities by communist rebels.

Most witnesses and victims’ families refused to speak with

the Melo Commission, fearing a whitewash, said a leader of the left-wing human

rights group Karapatan.

“We believe the president is really the culprit as commander

in chief,” Jigs Clamor, the group’s deputy secretary general, told Asia

Sentinel. “Behind these killings is the counter-insurgency program of the

government.”

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