But media won’t have access to document
MANILA, Philippines -- The European Union and the United Nations’ special rapporteur may expect to receive on Monday copies of the Melo Commission’s report on the extrajudicial killings, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said yesterday.
The disclosure came on the same day that police and the human rights group Karapatan announced the killing of leftist student leader Farley Alcantara II in Camarines Norte on Thursday. Alcantara was shot dead by a lone gunman who managed to get away.
Gonzales said in an interview that President Macapagal-Arroyo gave him the go-signal on Tuesday to transmit copies of the “thick document” requested by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.
“We’re all after the truth, so we will have to release it to appropriate bodies,” he said.
But the media will not have access to the report containing the Melo Commission’s findings on the unabated killings of journalists and leftist activists since Ms Arroyo took power in 2001.
The report was submitted to Ms Arroyo late last month by the commission chair, retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo. Its contents have yet to be made public.
Asked what took him so long to implement the President’s directive, Gonzales said he had to make “some transmittals” to the offices of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.
“But I was asked by the President to make the decision as early as Tuesday,” he said.
No major discrepancies
Gonzales told the Inquirer that the report had no “major discrepancies” from the earlier statement made by Melo linking the military, particularly retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, to some of the killings.
He reiterated the Palace’s position that the report was “incomplete.”
“It’s a preliminary report only. That’s why we said that we will release it when [it] is already complete,” he said, adding that the Melo Commission was “expected to continue” with its investigation.
He said the commission had no “timeframe” to finish the probe and “come up with its conclusions.”
Gonzales wondered why critics of the President had accused Malacañang of hiding the report: “I don’t know why this issue came out.”
Asked why Malacañang described the report as “inconclusive,” he said: “It only covered 10 percent of what should have been covered.”
Only one source
Ermita said on Thursday that the latest killings in Samar, Bicol and Misamis Oriental should be incorporated into the commission’s final report.
He took militant groups to task for snubbing the invitation of the commission to testify at its hearings, and for supposedly bloating its list of victims.
Asked about the reason for the withholding of the report, Ermita said Malacañang did not want the public to think that the report was based on only one source—Palparan and other generals who served as resource persons.
It was Bunye who told reporters on Thursday that the Palace was temporarily withholding the report.
“The government intends to work closely with the UN to get at the root of the matter although we have held the first Melo report from distribution because it’s still incomplete and, at this point, inconclusive,” he said.
Bunye welcomed the statement of the families of slain activists that they would fully cooperate with Alston and his team.
“This will complete the picture that the Melo Commission could not understandably achieve in view of the refusal of the families to testify before the probe body,” he said.
He added that with the inputs of the UN and “other well-meaning agencies, hopefully we can come up with a more comprehensive appreciation of the issue and undertake all means to resolve it permanently and close the book on it.”
Gonzales said yesterday that he expected the issue of the extrajudicial killings to be resolved soon.
He said the independent inquiries by the EU and the UN team would “tell us how to proceed.”
“Their recommendations are most welcome by the government,” he said.
Oplan Bantay Laya
Bayan Muna, the militant party-list group that lost at least 127 of its leaders and members to extrajudicial killings, lauded the planned creation of special courts devoted entirely to such cases.
But Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño told the Inquirer that the initiative of Chief Justice Reynato Puno was bound to fail without Ms Arroyo’s unequivocal support.
They specifically want Ms Arroyo to “rescind” the so-called Oplan Bantay Laya, a military campaign purportedly targeting the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People’s Army, and groups tagged as its fronts.
“What is more crucial at this point is for the President to issue an order to all state security forces not to engage in such killings, to relieve military commanders where the killings happen ... and overhaul the government’s counterinsurgency program,” Casiño said.
To make the special courts work, Ms Arroyo “must first end the policy of abetting, encouraging and sanctioning political killings as contained in Oplan Bantay Laya,” according to Ocampo.
“This policy and counterinsurgency operation-plan have rendered useless all previous investigative bodies, and continue to make justice elusive for victims’ families, and may sabotage the special courts formed by the Chief Justice,” he said in a statement.
Of no use
After meeting on Thursday with the UN team led by Alston, Puno announced that he was forming special courts to concentrate on extrajudicial killings.
Karapatan has listed 832 alleged summary executions since 2001. Of the number, 127 of the victims belonged to Bayan Muna, according to its media coordinator Tonyo Cruz.
“Unfortunately, the executive branch does not share the commitment of Chief Justice Puno to end, investigate and prosecute such cases,” Ocampo said.
He said the special courts would practically be of no use, and predicted that prosecutors and investigators—who are under the executive branch—would “doom all cases against the military and police under the present circumstances.”
Palparan cases dropped
According to Ocampo, all cases against Palparan had been dropped by the Department of Justice. “The prevailing policy of Ms Arroyo, as implemented by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and Norberto Gonzales, will make it impossible for victims to successfully file cases before the special courts,” he said.
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