Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Businessworld (Philippines)
Copyright: 2016 BusinessWorld
Author: Joseph U. Vizcarra


THE Philippines has vowed to investigate reports of a wave of 
extrajudicial killings, the government said Sunday, after Washington 
warned military aid to its Asian ally was dependent on respect for 
human rights.

According to media reports, nearly a thousand people have been killed 
since President Rodrigo R. Duterte won a landslide election victory 
in May largely on a pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

The US embassy warned the Duterte government on Friday that millions 
of dollars of military aid allotted to the Philippines was tied to 
adherence to the rule of law, due process and respect for human rights.

"We are concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of 
individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the 
Philippines," it said.

"We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement 
efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations," the embassy added.

A Philippine foreign department statement sent to AFP on Sunday said 
that it took note of US views on the issue, adding Manila was focused 
on the eradication of drugs in society.

"Nevertheless, while pursuing this objective, the Philippine 
government is committed to the rule of law, and the protection of 
human rights for all."

It added: "We do not condone any unlawful killings and Philippine 
authorities have been instructed to immediately look into these 
incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice."

Philippine police said Friday they had killed 550 drug suspects while 
arresting nearly 8,000 others since after the May election.

However, broadcasting network ABS- CBN has reported that more than 
400 other people have been killed since then by shadowy assassins who 
leave cardboard signs beside their victims accusing them of narcotics crimes.

Police said that while it was investigating these other killings, no 
suspects had been arrested.


Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a 
statement dated Friday criticized the anti-drug war on the watch of 
the Duterte administration as being "anti-people and anti-democratic."

"The Duterte regime has unleashed unmitigated violence and threats of 
violence against the people, mostly victims and people at the lowest 
rungs of the criminal syndicate ladder," the CPP said in its statement.

"In contrast, the suspected big drug lords and their protectors are 
afforded courtesy calls to Malacanang, accommodations in Camp Crame's 
guest house and preliminary investigations by the NBI. The worst that 
they have been made to undergo is to suffer the lectures of the PNP ( 
Philippine National Police) chief."

The statement said Mr. Duterte "has become so full of himself and 
intoxicated with the vast power he is not used to handle that he 
thinks he can get away with upturning the criminal judicial system 
and denouncing people for defending human rights.... He has made 
himself a laughing stock among legal circles. He, however, is not 
laughing and threatens anyone who chooses to stand in his way."

"In line with standing orders, the New People's Army (NPA) will 
continue to intensify its operations to arrest and disarm drug trade 
operators and protectors," the CPP said.

"However, these will no longer be considered as cooperative with the 
Duterte regime's undemocratic and anti-people 'war on drugs.' As 
before, the NPA will continue to exercise due process in dealing with 
suspects, such as those PNP officers presently in custody in 
Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur."

After initial overtures toward peace by both sides, Mr. Duterte and 
the communist movement have since become mutually critical, after his 
declared cease-fire during his first State of the Nation Address was 
canceled by the end of that week following reported hostilities.

But the government panel scheduled to negotiate with the National 
Democratic Front ( NDF) in Oslo, Norway, still looks ahead to 
resuming peace talks.

In a statement on Sunday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on 
the Peace Process (OPAPP) said it is "confident most of the detained 
rebel leaders will be released in time for the formal opening on August 22."

The NDF has listed 22 consultants currently detained as crucial to 
the peace talks, OPAPP said, citing among them, Adelberto Silva and 
couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon who were released last week on bail.

As of this writing, a court in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, is set to 
release two more NDF members who will take part in the talks.

- - main report by AFP with Joseph U. Vizcarra.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom