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[Statement] Claiming for Justice for the Victims of Extra-judicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances in the Philippines

Human Rights Now is a Japan-based NGO established by a group of lawyers, researchers and activists aiming for the improvement of the human rights situation especially in Asia. Since last year, we have expressed grave concerns over a number of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines. In addition to issuing statements on the occasion of the ASEAN Summit and President Arroyo's Japan visit, we conducted an investigation in April, and we also held a lecture in May by Professor Philip Alston, the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.


We welcome the fact that the following progress have been made. *Investigative report has been issued by the Melo Commission that revealed the involvement of soldiers. *The Philippine government has accepted the visit of Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur. Furthermore, he issued a report that acknowledges military involvement and then, he met with governmental officials. * After receiving the report by the Melo Commission, President Arroyo ordered the setting up of a special tribunal to try cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, the reinforcement of the witness protection program, and the conduct of joint investigation by the Department of Justice, Armed Force of the Philippines and Commission of Human Rights . *The special investigation team formed by the national police (Task Force Usig) announced that perpetrators in about 80 cases have been prosecuted. *The Supreme Court held a Summit inviting not only government parties but also NGO affiliates in order to seek resolution of problems including extrajudicial killings. The Supreme Court also established the redress system which can order victims' protection, victims' investigation, and disclosure of information. This system has actually helped to release some victims, which gave some hope to other victims.


However, political killings and enforced disappearances still continue. According to the Philippine human rights NGO, Karapatan, 68 victims of extrajudicial killings and 26 enforced disappearances have been reported since January to October, 2007.

The Armed Force of the Philippines as an organization has never accepted its responsibility  in spite of the fact that the national police has prosecuted military personnel who were pointed out in the report of Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur. The investigation by the national police has been only a small portion of the cases that have been happening, and among the prosecuted cases, those that have been submitted for decision were very few. Also, prosecution of crimes has not been carried out properly. In fact, we interviewed witnesses and relatives in 15 extrajudicial killing cases and 3 enforced disappearance cases, and none of those case has been solved. Furthermore, no compensation nor official apology for victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances has been made. 

Since the Philippine government has an obligation to protect human rights within its jurisdiction, the government is obliged to prevent occurrence of the grave human rights violation such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and once it happens, to investigate the human rights violation, identify responsible persons, and prosecute them. As governmental organs are involved in the human rights violations, the Philippine government should also compensate victims and give official apology.

 Human Rights Now, on the occasion of Human Rights Day on December 10th, demands effective measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; investigations against  elements from the military and police hierarchy who failed to supervise perpetrators, or worse, participated in the actual commission of human rights violations; and apologies and compensation for the victims from the Philippine government.


Furthermore, HRN again calls on the Japanese government, who enjoys friendly relations with the Philippine government being its biggest donor of development aid, to continue conversations with the Philippine government on human rights issues, monitor the process of the restoration of human rights such as investigation, prosecution, apologies and compensation in order to ensure accountability and justice.


Finally, we demand that any new yen loan should not be carried out until the improvement of human rights situation and accountability mechanism are clearly recognized.