Sep 242014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA777 2007-03-09 07:48 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #0777/01 0680748
O 090748Z MAR 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000777



E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2012


Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. Embassy continues actively to engage the
Philippine government to encourage more effective action to
bring to justice those involved in unlawful killings, and to
seek additional ways in which the USG can be helpful. End

¶2. (C) In a March 5 meeting with the members of the
Presidentially-appointed Melo Commission on unlawful
killings, Ambassador and Pol/C underscored USG concern over
this issue, described U.S. efforts additionally to be of
assistance to the Philippine government (reftel), and asked
about the Commission’s next steps. Justice Melo confirmed
that President Arroyo had formally requested the Commission
to continue its mandate, but indicated that the members
expected to wrap up their involvement by June 30. Justice
Melo noted that the leftist human rights group Karapatan had
now agreed to meet with the Commission, a welcome change from
its earlier, unhelpful attitude. He did not indicate when
this would take place, however. He and other Commission
members reiterated a call for President Arroyo to issue an
even more explicit denunciation of unlawful killings by
members of the armed forces to ensure that the entire chain
of command understood that such incidents must stop now and
that any and all culprits will indeed face justice. Justice
Melo acknowledged the recent issuance of a welcome new
directive from Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff
General Esperon outlining chain of command responsibilities.

¶3. (U) On March 5, Executive Secretary formally instructed
the Secretary of Budget and Management to release 25,000,000
pesos (approximately USD 500,000) to the Philippine
Commission on Human Rights to expand its ability to monitor,
investigate, and train.

¶4. (U) On March 7, President Arroyo instructed the
Department of Justice and the Presidential Human Rights
Committee to prioritize cases for trials by the special
courts that the Supreme Court recently designated to handle
killings of political activists and journalists. In a
statement, President Arroyo said that “cases that are strong
enough to be brought to court should be prosecuted
effectively and immediately to instill confidence in the
process we have put in place,” while emphasizing that “due
process is the watchword as we bring these killers to

¶5. (C) Pol/C met on March 5 with the head of the AFP’s new
Human Rights Office, Lt. Col. Benedicto M. Jose. Jose is an
attorney who received specialized human rights training while
serving as a Military Legal Advisor to the UN Peacekeeping
Operation in Cote d’Ivoire. (Embassy subsequently nominated
Lt. Col. Jose for our FY 08 International Visitor Leadership
Program.) Lt. Col. Jose explained how he and his eventual
staff of 20 (including five civilians) will coordinate both
with the AFP’s Provost Martial and the Philippine Commission
on Human Rights to investigate allegations of human rights
abuses by AFP personnel or units, and expressed satisfaction
about the Embassy’s extensive cooperation with the Commission
on Human Rights to vet, under the Leahy amendment, all
military and law enforcement personnel receiving USG-funded
training. He confirmed that civilian courts, not military
courts martial, would try any AFP personnel against whom
there was sufficient evidence to file criminal charges. He
highlighted that the AFP’s 2005 revised Code of Ethics
explicitly mandated that the AFP “shall respect the inherent
dignity of a human being and his inalienable rights as
contained in the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and
other declarations to which our country is a signatory. As
such the AFP shall pledge itself to protect and promote these
rights.” He confirmed that his office would undertake
training on this responsibility directly as well as in
coordination with local NGOs and the ICRC. He insisted that
his office would be a “strong human rights advocate” and not
a “protector” of AFP personnel, emphasizing that “the best
propaganda is truth with justice.” He claimed that since he
works directly for the Chief of Staff, he has the clear
authority to interrogate any field commander, regardless of
rank, and said that he had already done so. He said that he
did not yet have any statistics on how many ongoing new or
old cases of unlawful killings may involve AFP personnel, but
promised to update the Embassy as the office’s operations
advance. Pol/C expressed Embassy’s willingness to look for
ways to be helpful.

¶6. (C) In a meeting on March 8, Presidential Chief Legal

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Counsel Serge Apostol (whom President Arroyo designated as
the point person to follow up on the recent directives —
reftel — to combat unlawful killings more effectively) told
Pol/C that some legal cases involving unlawful killings were
nearing completion soon, with probable convictions. He
confirmed that he was working with the Supreme Court to
expedite the handling of ongoing or new cases to ensure that
culprits face justice as quickly as fairly possible, and
indicated that the courts were likely to undertake continuous
trials (not the norm in the legal system here).

¶7. (C) The new Presidential Human Rights Committee
Executive Director Cecilia “Coco” Quisumbing told Pol/C in a
separate meeting at Malacanang Palace on March 8 that
President Arroyo’s instructions to her Cabinet were strong
and explicit in demanding all relevant government agencies
take immediate steps to combat unlawful killings and to bring
culprits to justice regardless of who they were. She
emphasized that the designation of Executive Secretary Ermita
as the new formal head of the Committee would ensure
top-level attention from the relevant Cabinet Secretaries who
sit on the Committee as well. She expressed appreciation for
the various actions the USG had taken in support of
Philippine efforts to resolve these cases, and a strong
willingness to work closely together in the future.

¶8. (C) In a follow up to the in-house meeting Ambassador
chaired on March 1, Embassy’s Pol-Mil Working Group on March
7 discussed further steps various agencies and sections
could take. In addition to the ongoing human rights
component built into all of our military exercises and
training, our Joint Special Operations Task Force team will
work to expand human rights training specifically for Task
Force Comet engaged in Operation Ultimatum on Jolo Island.
Other inter-agency teams will engage with AFP commands in
Davao, Bicol, and Central Luzon — where there have been
allegations of involvement by AFP personnel in unlawful
killings in recent years — on human rights training and
command responsibility.

¶9. (C) Embassy’s Justice Attache is now finalizing
arrangements to bring a USDOJ prosecutor specializing in
command responsibility to conduct a two week training course,
probably in April 2007, for Philippine prosecutors and
investigators in areas with high incidences of unlawful
killings. Embassy’s Senior Law Enforcement Advisor will tap
existing INL funds for this project, which Presidential Human
Rights Committee Executive Director Quisumbing strongly
welcomed. Legatt will coordinate FBI trainers, while the
Naval Criminal Investigative Service will bring out a
military prosecutor to participate in the training, along
with trainers from DOJ’s ICITAP.

¶10. (C) JUSMAG is encouraging Department of National
Defense officials to place stopping unlawful killings and
bringing culprits to justice as central themes in President
Arroyo’s speech to the Philippine Military Academy’s
graduation ceremony on March 19. Ambassador emphasized this
theme in her own earlier remarks at PMA, as well as recently
at the National Defense University and at other events with
military leaders (i.e., “Night of the Generals”).

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