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Hong Kong Christian Institute Statement: Stop the Killings in the Philippines


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16 August 2006

The Hong Kong Christian Institute (HKCI) is deeply concerned about the increasing number of political killings and human rights violations in the Philippines. We urge the Philippine government to take stronger action to address this issue and prevent further killings from taking place.

The right to life is the most fundamental human right. We applaud the Philippine government's recent decision to abolish the death penalty. Meanwhile, however, there are ongoing and escalating political killings taking place. HKCI is appalled that more than 700 people have died from extrajudicial killings since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001. Moreover, hundreds of cases of abductions and harassment have also occurred.

Even though President Arroyo expressed her concern about these extrajudicial killings in her State of the Nation Address on July 24, 2006, and Task Force Usig (TFU) was set up in May, extrajudicial killings still persist. Just after President Arroyo's speech, for example, two people¬Rei Mon Guran and Alice Claver¬were shot and killed on July 31 in politically motivated incidents. In addition, Dr. Constancio "Chandu" Claver was also shot in the same attack and is in critical condition. HKCI is disappointed that the government's concern has not been translated into effective action to stop these political killings.

General Avelino Razon Jr. of the Philippine National Police (PNP) denied that more than 700 political killings have taken place in the Philippines since 2001, a figure reported by human rights organisations in the country, claiming instead that it was the propaganda of progressive groups. For the cases that the TFU has investigated, he asserted that the alleged perpetrators were primarily members of the New People's Army (NPA), but how can he make this claim when the investigations have not been completed and no one has been arrested?

The HKCI joined a fact-finding mission in July 2006 that interviewed a number of witnesses to these political killings. Many of the victims are members of progressive group and human rights activists. Before their death, some of them were harassed and warned not to continue their struggles. According to witnesses, some of the perpetrators were masked and were wearing military uniforms.

Although there are witnesses to some extrajudicial killings, they are too frightened to speak up, a reflection of the loopholes in the witness protection system that discourages witnesses from giving testimony. Some of the victims' families have even fled to other communities to avoid further harassment. Meanwhile, the commitment of the government and police to investigate these killings needs to be questioned as the victims' families have complained that investigations have been insufficient, and the cases have been dismissed in a short period of time because of insufficient evidence.

HKCI strongly denounces these political killings which have snatched people's lives. This political repression suppresses the _expression of people's political beliefs and convictions and attempts to silence dissidents. HKCI wants to remind the Philippine government that the world is watching the alarming and increasing number of human rights violations in the country. Each killing is a blemish on the international image of the Philippines.

HKCI demands that the Philippine government protect the life of every citizen. Since members of progressive groups, union leaders, farmers, journalists, human rights lawyers and church leaders are the people at greatest risk, the government should take measures to ensure their safety. All threats reported to the police should immediately be followed up, and protection should be provided. When extrajudicial killings occur, the police should promptly and impartially investigate every killing and should bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

As for the loopholes in witness protection, the PNP should examine the deficiencies in the programme and quickly reform the system.

Furthermore, the government should stop labelling human rights activists as NPA members without evidence to substantiate these claims. These accusations can not justify the harassment and human rights violations committed against the victims; these accusations can not give the police and military a state-sanctioned license to kill.

Among the people who have died from these political killings, quite a number of them are from the church sector. HKCI is especially inspired by the courage and commitment of many Christian activists to be faithful to the Gospel and to walk with the poor, to challenge the oppressor and to seek justice for all in spite of many challenges and obstacles. Although their lives are at risk, they still dare to confront these challenges and obstacles. Their example offers so much from which we Christians in Hong Kong can learn, especially their witness and presence in society. In addition to joining the fact-finding mission, HKCI will continue to raise the awareness of Hong Kong's people about the violence that is threatening the lives of so many Filipinos. We add our voices to those of the Filipino people and others around the world: The killings must stop now! #

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