FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2006
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
PHILIPPINES: AHRC reproduces an article "Papal Nuncio twits GMA on slay spree" - an update on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines
The Daily Tribune has published an article by Marie A. Surbano on July 7, 2006 entitled "Papal Nuncio twits GMA on slay spree", we reproduce this article below.
In his comments the Papal Nuncio attempts to highlight the central importance of dealing with extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. We hope that this will be an eye-opener for all the church leaders in the Philippines to take up this issue in a more forceful manner so that this crime can be brought to an end. In comments made by several persons in the on-line petition (please follow this link http://www.pinoyhr.net/) initiated by the Asian Human Rights Commission a large number of persons have raised the issue of the central importance, both from a moral and legal point of view. Some have reflected also from a theological point of view as the Philippines is predominantly a Christian country. The issues raised by the Papal Nuncio and all the others should lead to a greater active discussion both in the Philippines and outside to bring these extrajudicial killings to an end.
The on-line petition is drawing participation from many persons from all over the world and also the Philippines. We urge everyone to take an active part in this signature campaign and to try and encourage as many persons to sign it as possible. Your comments will also be useful in order to improve the debate on this matter.
We reproduce below the article as mentioned above.
"Papal Nuncio Archbishop Fernando Filoni yesterday raised the alarm over the growing number of unresolved murders of Filipino journalists and activists.
Speaking before members of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and the School of Economics Units of the University of Asia and the Pacific in Metro Manila, Filoni stressed that the string of killings is disturbing, considering that President Arroyo recently signed the law that abolished capital punishment in the Philippines.
"I am surprised to see that, in the Philippines, there is still an activity of high incidence of moral and political violence against those who profess different political ideologies, like the journalists, columnists and writers, among others," he said.
The Vatican representative to Manila pointed out that the violence and the political killings are not helping the people as well as the nation to be progressive because these upheavals serve as a stumbling block for Filipinos who want to move forward and achieve their goals.
"This incidence (of political killings) unduly delays the ability of society and the Filipino people in their lives when they encounter such violence," Filoni said.
Human rights and other advocacy groups have said more than 700 persons were killed since Mrs. Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.
Having stayed in Iraq for five years, Filoni said he is not a stranger to any violence and particularly the rampant violations of human rights along religious lines.
"Coming from a country where I have just been for five years, I have witnessed the continued violations of the rights of the entire people, of the right of the poor to defend (themselves), of the rights of the religious communities to express their own sentiments and beliefs and the rights of the various organizations to upkeep individuals in the community," the newly installed representative of the Holy See to the Philippines added.
While he lauded the President's decision in abolishing the death penalty, Filoni noted that the spate of killings is still raising many questions on the real motive of the government in junking capital punishment.
Filoni described the abolition of the death penalty as a "profound sense of humanity" and a "pro-active (stand) and more elevated form of civility."
He, however, pointed out that the series of murders was contradicting what the Philippine government wants to project to the world.
"Whether it be the political or the religious point of view, it will truly be a contradiction, if on the one hand, we practically abolished the death penalty and yet, on the other hand, we are not respecting or implementing the (protected) rights of the human race," the Papal Nuncio said.
Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in the CBCP's pastoral statement released last July 10, 2006, voiced stronger concern over extra-judicial killings.
"We join the outcry of groups that have denounced the increasing number of extra-judicial killings of journalists and social activists suspected as sympathizers of insurgents allegedly by some ultra-rightist elements in the military," Lagdameo said.
According to him, many dioceses have been receiving letters and lists of persons who had been victims of political killings.
Lagdameo said they "cannot close our eyes to the great number of extra-judicial killings that sometimes do not come to light in the newspapers but are known to us in our dioceses."
Meanwhile, Filoni said there is still hope for the Philippines if government leaders will show more concern for the plight of the poor and the marginalized sectors in the country.
Last month, Mrs. Arroyo won praise from Pope Benedict XVI in a personal meeting at which she presented him with the documents on the abolition of the death penalty - a long-time priority of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.
Filoni did not say who might be behind the murders, which leftist groups have widely blamed on the government.
The groups charge that nearly one hundred of their members have been murdered since Mrs. Arroyo came to power in 2001.
Five journalists have been murdered this year compared to seven last year, leading the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) to say in a 2006 report that "after Iraq, the Philippines is the most dangerous country for journalists."
The government has suggested that communist insurgents may be behind many of the killings as part of an internal purge.
The allegation was denied by the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been leading a "people's war" for over three decades. AFP
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2006-07-24