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Commission Established in Philippines to Inquire into Killings of NGO Members and Journalists

      In recent years, the Philippines has witnessed a dramatic increase of killings of grass-roots activists, including NGO members, workers and farmers, as well as church members and journalists[Japanese]. The involvement of the armed forces and the police has been suspected. National and international criticism is growing against the Arroyo Administration for failing to take effective measures, including investigation.
      In response, President Arroyo announced a plan to establish a "Commission to Conduct an Independent Probe of the Killings of Journalists and Leftist Activists", which is a special commission consisting of five members, including a former judge of the Supreme Court. The day of the announcement, 21 August 2006, was the twenty-third anniversary of the assassination of Benigno Aquino, former Senator, during the Marcos dictatorship.
      The plan has aroused much criticism from opposition party members and others, who cannot believe its independent nature. They also argue that the plan is no more than a measure to deflect national and international criticism, which will not be effective in putting a brake on political killings.
      A leftist human rights organization, KARAPATAN, reveals more than 700 killings of activists of legal organizations after the establishment of the Arroyo Administration in 2001. On the other hand, the number is a little more than 200 according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the leading daily newspaper in the country, and less than 100 according to the armed forces and the police. Different bodies provide different estimations concerning the number of victims in this way.
      On 15 August, Amnesty International released a detailed report on this issue, which extends to 51 pages, entitled PHILIPPINES: Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process. According to the report, "At least 51 political killings took place in the first half of 2006, compared to the 66 killings ... in the whole of 2005".
      After the formation of the New People's Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party, in 1969, the Philippines have witnessed ongoing battle between the NPA and the official armed forces, which has resulted in many casualties on both sides. What is at stake now is, however, not killings of armed soldiers. It is the fact that those who are involved in legal activities have been killed, apparently with the involvement of the public authorities, on an overwhelmingly larger scale than in the periods under some Presidents after Marcos, namely Presidents Aquino, Ramos and Estrada.

· Suppression of human rights in the Philippines: Killings of activists, journalists and church people (Japanese)
· "Ex-SC justice heads probe of leftist slays Jose Melo, NBI chief, bishop in commission" INQ7.NET, 21 August, 2006. (English)

See also: Amnesty International, PHILIPPINES: Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process