Malacañang took as “constructive criticism from an ally” the human rights report of the United States government describing the Philippines as being under a climate of impunity as far as the issue of unsolved killings is concerned.
Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye assured the international community that the Philippine government “upholds democracy and human rights as strongly as it cherishes freedom and free enterprise.”
Malacañang did not deny the problem of unexplained killings which has hounded the administration, most particularly in the past year.
Bunye reiterated President Arroyo is addressing the issue of unexplained killings.
He pointed out Mrs. Arroyo made all efforts to address the issue by establishing special courts that would hear all cases of unexplained killings.
The presidential directive also fielded special prosecutors to handle the cases and strengthened the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
The President has also tasked the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to put up strict internal controls.
Bunye said the presidential directives were based on the recommendations of the Melo Commission which separately investigated the spate of unexplained murders of militant activists and journalists.
In the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 issued by the US State Department, it stated that in the Philippines “many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases.”
The report also noted that communist rebels were also behind the murder of government officials, civilians and in some cases, former comrades.
Bunye said the government remains focused on wiping out the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“At the same time, we are increasing the legal, counter-propaganda and operational measures against the CPP-NPA to end the trail of mass murder and mayhem the revolutionary left has inflicted upon our people,” Bunye said.
“The Philippines has had a history of violence over the past decades that we aim to deal with and put in the past, adhering to strict standards of criminal justice and human rights, with justice under the rule of law and we welcome all the assistance we can get from our allies and partners for a safer and more secure world,” he added. –The Philippine STAR