Melo Commission Report: Introduction

Feb. 23, 2007

B. Procedure

It was decided by the Commission that the most effective way of gathering the necessary information about the extrajudicial killings was to conduct public hearings at which evidence would be presented and resource persons and witnesses testify. The General Counsel, under the auspices of the Commission, would be responsible for gathering, sorting, and presenting the evidence and witnesses at the hearings.

Faced with a number of potential witnesses and resource persons, the Commission planned to invite resource persons or witnesses from the various activist or militant groups, families of victims, as well as the police and military authorities.

The Commission intended to present, as its first set of witnesses, the families of the two students of the University of the Philippines who had then recently disappeared in Hagonoy, Bulacan, and were feared to be the latest victims of extrajudicial killings. Unfortunately, despite invitations sent to the said families through the good offices of Commissioner Nelia Gonzalez and other officials of the University of the Philippines, they declined to appear, seemingly upon the urging of Karapatan. Likewise, despite the numerous invitations extended by the Commission, Karapatan and other activist or militant groups refused to cooperate, and rather questioned the Commissions independence.

Since the Commission essentially relied on the voluntary cooperation of witnesses and resource persons, there was nothing the Commission could do about the reluctance of the activist groups to join the investigation, except perhaps by demonstrating its independence, probity, and integrity in the hearings to be held and in its eventual report.

In the meantime, due to the lack of other witnesses and resource persons from the activist and militant groups, the Commission opted to call the police and military authorities to provide their own information on the extrajudicial killings.

The Commission first called the Philippine National Police, which sent Gen. Avelino Razon, Deputy Director of the PNP, together with his retinue. Gen. Razon is likewise the head of Task Force Usig, which was created to investigate, solve, and otherwise handle the same extrajudicial killings, and it was in his capacity as such head that he appeared before the Commission. The Commission was likewise informed that Task Force Usig was instructed by the President herself to cooperate fully with the Commission. Gen. Razon presented a comprehensive report on the activities of Task Force Usig and their views and opinions on the suspects behind the killings.

Thereafter, the Commission called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was represented by the Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, who gave a brief report or statement on the killings, and answered various questions propounded by the Commission. The next witness was Retired Gen. Jovito S. Palparan, Jr., who was confronted for his image and reputation as the prime suspect behind the extrajudicial killings.

The Commission then extended an invitation to the Commission on Human Rights, which was represented by Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing.

Thereafter, the Commission held hearings in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, and in Davao City on the alleged killings of peasants and non-governmental organization workers suspected to be perpetrated by hired goons of landowners. The Commission noted that these killings are within its mandate to look into, considering that the victims were farmers or peasant activists.

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