Military briefs Asian diplomats on killings

Published by reposted only Date posted on March 2, 2007

The military on Thursday briefed Asian diplomats on the wave of unsolved political killings after two damning reports implicated the nation’s top commanders.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the closed-door briefing in Camp Aguinaldo was requested by ambassadors who wanted to “be enlightened on the context under which the so-called unexplained killings are happening.”

The meeting came a week after special UN Human Rights Commission Rapporteur Philip Alston alleged that rogue military personnel were behind most of the killings. Rights groups say over 800 people have been murdered since 2001.

The Melo Commission found circumstantial evidence linking some sections of the military to the deaths.

Alston reported the military was in denial over the killings, and urged a thorough investigation for the culprits to be brought to justice. He blamed a flawed antiinsurgency campaign that often also targeted civilians.

The military has consistently claimed that many of the killings were carried out by communist guerrillas purging their own ranks.

“They [ambassadors] must understand that the deaths could be blamed on the conflict, but we are not saying that these are being carried out by the armed services,” Ermita said.

He said organizations or groups allegedly being used as fronts by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) have used the killings as “propaganda fodder” to weaken support for the armed forces.

The Armed Forces has repeatedly said the number of victims is inflated by rights’ groups.

The military has insisted the victims are often either killed in internal rebel purges or slain in combat with Philippine troops.

President Arroyo has ordered the creation of special courts and the appointment of extra prosecutors to speed up the investigations.

Those included in the briefing were envoys from Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as from India, Bangladesh and South Korea, officials said.

Ermita, a retired Army general, said that “front-organizations” were using extrajudicial killings as propaganda against the military.

Karapatan, a leftist human-rights group, has claimed it had recorded more than 700 cases of extrajudicial killings since Mrs. Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

The Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig lists only 100 cases.

–AFP and Anthony Vargas, Manila Times

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