Philippines: Trillanes probe asked to open safehouses, secret detention places

Jun. 20, 2007

MANILA — The Philippine human rights alliance KARAPATAN welcomed the planned probe on extrajudicial killings of former soldier and now senator-elect Antonio Trillanes.

KARAPATAN Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez said, “We laud Senator Trillanes for this move to put the Arroyo administration to task for the unabated extrajudicial killings.”

KARAPATAN likewise welcomes the pronouncements made by top anti-Arroyo military officials who said that they will provide the detained senator-elect with evidence once he begins work in the Senate next month.

KARAPATAN asked for the Trillanes probe to open safehouses, military camps and pinpoint secret places of detention to determine the fate of victims of enforced disappearances. “This will bring an end to the sufferings of relatives of hundreds of victims who continue to go through the pain of loss and uncertainty over the fate of their loved ones,” Hilao-Enriquez added.

“We hope that the investigation would bring more uniformed men and women who are in-the-know out of the woodwork to really bring the perpetrators to the bar of justice and ascertain the fate of those who were abducted and are missing up to now,” Hilao-Enriquez said.

The human rights group lambasted the Arroyo government for coddling the general referred to by the two military officers to be responsible for the physical elimination of activists. “What Trillanes and the unnamed generals refer to as ‘mission orders’ and death squads from the military intelligence is consistent with the Arroyo government’s enhanced national internal security plan,” Hilao-Enriquez said.

As early as 2005, KARAPATAN has attributed extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to a national policy of the Arroyo government, Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, which they say “consider civilians to be fair target on allegations of being communist sympathizers.” In March 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Prof. Philip Alston said that one of the causes of the killings is the “vilification, labelling or guilt by association… of a wide range of groups including human rights advocates, indigenous organizations, religious groups, student groups, agrarian reform advocates, and others” to be classified as ” ‘fronts’ and then as ‘enemies of the state’ that are accordingly considered to be legitimate targets.”

Since Ms Arroyo assumed presidency in 2001, KARAPATAN recorded 863 civilian victims of extrajudicial killings by suspected state security forces, among them 411 activists belonging to different political organizations. 180 persons have been victims of enforced disappearance. Many more have been abducted and were missing for days before surfacing dead or incarcerated.###

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