US Senate starts RP killings probe

Published by reposted only Date posted on March 12, 2007

The United States Senate is set to start an investigation into hundreds of unexplained killings in the Philippines.

An announcement on the US Senate website said the initial inquiry would be conducted by the East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee at 2:30 p.m. (Washington time) at Room SD-419 of the US Congress.

The investigation aims “to examine strategies to end the violence relating to extrajudicial killings in the Philippines,” the announcement said.

The inquiry was arranged by Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democratic deputy whip and an influential member of the foreign relations committee, upon request by Filipino-American organizations in the US and by militant groups here.

US authorities, including Ambassador Kristie Kenney, have recently expressed serious concern over the unabated political killings.

They have even expressed willingness to provide technical help in solving these cases, but Malacañang officials said they would ask for help when it is needed.

The projected inquiry by American senators followed the recent investigation conducted by UN human rights official Philip Alston, who blamed the killings on the military.

Alston lamented that the national officialdom was “in denial” on the killings.

One Filipino official invited to participate in the US Senate inquiry is House deputy minority leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, who has made himself scarce due to the issuance of a warrant for his arrest by a Leyte judge.

In a statement released by his staff yesterday, Ocampo said he would participate in Wednesday’s hearing in whatever way he can.

His staff said they are arranging how such participation could be made possible through hi-tech means of communication that are presently available to anyone wanting to use them.

“As president of Bayan Muna, the party to which 127 victims of extrajudicial killings belonged, I intend to participate in the US Senate hearing to help US senators and the American people understand the prevailing culture of impunity and the political persecution of duly elected party-list organizations,” Ocampo said.

“The global spotlight will now focus on Mrs. Arroyo’s bloodied iron-fist and disabuse her from a penchant to pretend as a democrat. The world will be able to confirm that Mrs. Arroyo is a poor imitation of Ferdinand Marcos,” he said.

He thanked Senator Boxer for arranging the US Senate inquiry.

“The Senate hearing is a result of the international uproar due to the Arroyo government’s refusal to order state security forces to dismantle death squads, and its violation of the rights of people’s organizations to operate freely without harassment,” he said.

He noted that the US State Department and American churches and organizations have criticized the Arroyo government for the unsolved political killings.

The military blames many of the unexplained killings on communist guerrillas and their legal organizations, claiming these groups have been purging their ranks of suspected government spies.

It is in connection with an alleged purge more than two decades ago that a Leyte judge has ordered the arrest of Ocampo and other communist leaders. But Ocampo said he was in military detention at the time.

Depending on the result of the US Senate inquiry, future American government aid to the Philippines could be affected.

During the Marcos era, opponents of martial law and the dictatorship successfully lobbied with the Americans to cut financial help to the Marcos regime and to pressure the late president to hold elections in 1986 after a two-decade rule.–Jess Diaz, The Philippine STAR

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