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UN expert: Philippine military deliberately killing leftists
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13:16, November 28, 2007

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A United Nations investigator has accused Philippine government troops of killing left-wing activists as part of the military's campaign against anti-government groups, local media reported on Wednesday.

Some military units have followed a "deliberate strategy" of systematically hunting down leaders of leftist organizations, the Philippine Star reported, citing an investigation released by Philip Alston in Geneva on Monday.

Alston is an Australian tasked by the UN Human Rights Council with investigating extra judicial killings in the Philippines.

Alston, who visited the Philippines in February, said the military was in a "state of denial" about its role in the deaths of about 800 opposition activists over the past six years.

"The military's argument that the leftist activists who have been killed are victims of a 'purge' by the rebels is strikingly unconvincing and can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility," he said.

Armed Forces public information chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro denied the allegations of Alston.

"It has never been a policy of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to conduct such activities," he said. "As an organization, the AFP will never tolerate any of its members to trample upon the rights of the people whom we are duty-bound to serve."

On the other hand, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said it was not necessary to counter Alston's report since the government has made a detailed report that included steps taken to resolve the problem.

Leaders and representatives of other countries were receptive to the government's report, he said.

Romulo said an assessment should be made on the government's detailed report on the killings and the action taken by the Commission on Human Rights, the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the military and the police.

The Supreme Court set up 99 special courts to try cases of extrajudicial killings in response to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's action strengthening the Witness Protection Program, he added.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo, a former ambassador to the UN, said the government was taking urgent action to stop the extrajudicial killings and to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

Based on the Presidential Human Rights Committee's inventory, 60 cases of extrajudicial killings have been brought to court since 2001, he added.

In his report Alston, a professor of law at New York University, dismissed theories that the killings were carried out by leftist New People's Army (NPA) to weed out spies and discredit the government.

"The government has undertaken a range of welcome reforms, but the fact remains that not a single soldier has been convicted in any of the cases involving leftist activists," he said.

Alston also examined other instances of extrajudicial killing in the Philippines.

Among them are the "people's courts" operated by the NPA and death squad killings of street children and petty criminals, he said.

He called on President Arroyo to stop further killings and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.

For almost four decades, the military has been fighting rebels seeking to establish a leftist state.

Troops are also engaged in a campaign against separatists in Mindanao, the south Philippines.


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