Sep 282014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/12/07MANILA3881.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA3881
2007-12-10 04:35
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7388
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #3881/01 3440435
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 100435Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9129
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0246
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MANILA 003881

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP AND DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/10/2017
TAGS: PHUM PREL RP
SUBJECT: EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS DECLINE IN 2007

REF: A. MANILA 3419
¶B. MANILA 3304
¶C. MANILA 3266
¶D. MANILA 2828
¶E. MANILA 573

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

¶1. (C) Summary: Intensified domestic and international
attention to the problem of extrajudicial killings and
disappearances in the Philippines appears to be having a
measurable impact, with government agencies and human rights
NGOs reporting a significant decline in the number of
extrajudicial killings in 2007. The new statistics coincide
with the release of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s
critical final report, which places the blame for numerous
killings squarely on the Philippine military, concluding that
in some parts of the country the Armed Forces have pursued a
“deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down” leftist
leaders. Alston’s final report, released over nine months
after his visit to the Philippines, essentially reiterated
his preliminary findings in February. The Supreme Court
continues to lead the government’s efforts on the legal front
by promulgating new rules regarding the “writ of amparo,” or
court protective order, as a legal remedy available to human
rights advocates and families of victims of human rights
abuses. Just over a month after the writ of amparo took
effect, human rights lawyers have filed six such petitions,
two of which resulted in the release of two missing persons
from military custody. While the Supreme Court had initially
designated 99 existing courts as “special courts” to hear
cases of extrajudicial killings, the order creating the writ
of amparo rescinded this designation. Under the new rules,
any of the 800 Regional Trial Court judges can hear cases of
extrajudicial killings or enforced disappearances. End
Summary.

———————————————
SIGNIFICANT DECLINE IN REPORTED CASES IN 2007
———————————————

¶2. (SBU) According to government and NGO sources, the number
of reported cases of extrajudicial killings dropped
significantly in 2007. Because the various organizations
that follow the issue use different criteria to classify
cases as extrajudicial killings, the numbers vary
substantially. However, by any measure, the number of
reported cases declined. As of the beginning of December,
Philippine National Police Task Force Usig reported six cases
throughout the year. This figure contrasts sharply with the
41 cases Task Force Usig reported in 2006. The Commission on
Human Rights reported a similar decline for the first half of
2007, from 130 victims during the first half of 2006 to 38
during the same period in 2007. On the other side of the
spectrum, Karapatan, the human rights organization affiliated
with the Communist Party of the Philippines that has claimed
the highest number of killings — over 800 killings since
2001 — reported 68 cases, down from 209 in 2006. Karapatan
attributed the sharp decline to pressure from the U.S.
Senate, the United Nations Rapporteur, the diplomatic
community, and international human rights groups.

———————————————
UN RAPPORTEUR ISSUES FINAL REPORT ON KILLINGS
———————————————

¶3. (U) United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who
visited the Philippines in February 2007 to investigate
extrajudicial killings, released his final report November
¶26. Among other findings, Alston placed the blame for the
killings squarely on the military, concluding that in some
parts of the Philippines the armed forces have “followed a
deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the
leaders of leftist organizations.” He called on President
Arroyo to stop further killings and ensure that those
responsible are brought to justice. Alston characterized as
“strikingly unconvincing” assertions by armed forces
officials that the killings were carried out by the New
People’s Army, the 40-year old communist terrorist group
dedicated to toppling the Philippine government, to purge
their ranks of disloyal members or to discredit the
government. Alston found that 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.” On the whole, Alston’s final
report basically reiterated his preliminary findings in
February (reftel E) but Alston also discussed, for the first

MANILA 00003881 002 OF 004

time, vigilante killings in Davao City.

——————————————
DAVAO CITY VIGILANTE KILLINGS ALSO DECLINE
——————————————

¶4. (SBU) Alston’s final report charges that a vigilante death
squad has been operating openly in Davao City, killing over
500 street children and others in broad daylight since 1998.
Local civil society organizations attribute the killings to
the “Davao Death Squad,” a vigilante group allegedly formed
by the mayor to rid the city of undesirable elements. Alston
concluded that the mayor “dominates the city so thoroughly as
to stamp out whole genres of crime, yet remains powerless in
the face of hundreds of murders committed by men without
masks in view of witnesses.” In 2006, the Davao-based
Kabataan (Youth) Consortium reported 76 victims of alleged
vigilante killings, mostly minors involved in illegal drug
trade and other criminal activities in the city. The
organization did not provide numbers for 2007 but noted that
there was a significant decline of such cases in 2007.
Through September, the Task Force Detainees of the
Philippines, a human rights organization that follows cases
and assists victims of human rights violations, reported 58
cases of vigilante killings in Davao City. However, the very
nature of these killings, which often target individuals
involved in criminal activities, makes it nearly impossible
to ascertain whether a killing might have been committed by a
“death squad” or was related to the individual’s criminal
activities. There were no cases filed in court on these
killings, primarily due to lack of witnesses to testify.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has consistently denied any
involvement in the death squads.

————————-
STRONG REACTION TO REPORT
————————-

¶5. (SBU) The Arroyo Administration quickly and strongly
responded to the release of Alston’s final report. Press
Secretary Ignacio Bunye emphasized that the President had

SIPDIS
faced the issue of extrajudicial killings forthrightly and
directly, while Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured
that the government was doing everything in its power to
address the problem. He added that the report “reawakened”
the government to the need to keep human rights at the
forefront. For his part, Police Chief Avelino Razon reported
that since the creation of Task Force Usig in May 2006, there
had been a significant decline in the killings, with only six
incidents recorded this year. Razon hoped to send the strong
message that the government would leave no stone unturned in
putting an end to the killings. Foreign Affairs
Undersecretary Rafael Seguis disagreed with the report,
stating that the Philippine government was “taking all
measures” to stop the killings. National Security Adviser
Norberto Gonzales said he hoped to invite Mr. Alston to visit
the country once again to validate his findings and see what
the government has actually done to address the problem.
Several left-leaning congressmen issued a press release
stating that Alston’s report was an “affirmation of our long
standing position that the intensified extrajudicial killings
and enforced disappearances … emanates from the highest
level of state policy on counter-insurgency.”

——————————————
MILITARY DEFENDS PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
——————————————

¶6. (C) The Philippine Armed Forces was defensive in
criticizing Alston’s report, calling it “half-baked.” Chief
of Staff of the Armed Forces General Esperon said Alson
needed better and more complete sources, arguing that the
military never denied some soldiers were involved in human
rights abuses, but the admission did not indicate that the
military was solely to blame for the killings, nor that it
was not doing anything to solve the cases and punish the
perpetrators. Esperon rebutted Alston’s claim that the
military had been carrying out a national policy of killing
leftists, saying “human rights is institutionalized in our
promotion . . . (and) values system.” Armed Forces spokesman
Bartolome Bacarro disclosed that murder and homicide charges
had been filed in criminal court against 22 soldiers involved
in 13 cases of summary execution. Separately, Task Force
Usig reported that there were 11 military personnel facing
criminal charges (homicide and murder) in the local trial
courts and Philippine Department of Justice prosecution
offices. Eight soldiers were suspects in killings of

MANILA 00003881 003 OF 004

politicians or activists while three were suspects in murders
of journalists. The maximum punishment for this crime is
life imprisonment.

¶7. (C) Esperon, who recently presided over major command
changes in the Philippine military, has been sensitive to
accusations that the military is behind the killings. He has
promoted respect for human rights in the military, and the
commanders selected in August 2007 (reftel C) to fill some of
the top jobs in the military, including Chief of the Army
General Yano and Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps
General Dolorfino, have echoed Esperon’s support for a
strategy that embraces hard and soft power. Civil-military
projects, part of President Arroyo’s “humanitarian
offensive,” have become a key element in the military’s
efforts to defeat not only Muslim insurgents and terrorists,
but also the New People’s Army. In strife-torn Mindanao,
where the government is negotiating a peace agreement with
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), there have been no
tactical engagements between the Army’s 6th Infantry Division
and the MILF since June, a development that the MILF
attributes to the army’s conflict management initiatives.
Throughout the country, including hotbeds of leftist
activity, civil-military projects and similar types of
activities increasingly are being utilized by the Philippine
Armed Forces to mitigate the influence of such groups (reftel
A). While armed clashes are still occurring between
government forces and illegal armed groups, the military has
shown restraint in conducting operations (reftel D).

——————————————-
OVERCOMING LEGAL CHALLENGES: WRIT OF AMPARO
——————————————-

¶8. (U) In October 2007, the Supreme Court promulgated new
rules regarding the “writ of amparo” (literally, “writ of
protection”), as a legal remedy available to human rights
advocates and families of victims of human rights abuses by
government agencies, particularly where the victim is
missing. Under the new rules, any person may file a petition
with any of the 800 Regional Trial Court judges against any
public official or agency. Once the petitioner establishes
to the satisfaction of the judge that there is reason to
believe that the government agency has information on the
whereabouts of a missing person, the judge issues a writ of
amparo mandating that within five days of its issuance the
government agency produce the missing person, provide
information on the person’s whereabouts, or demonstrate that
they are taking affirmative steps to locate the missing
person. The judge may also issue inspection orders to search
particular locations. Since the writ of amparo went into
effect, human rights lawyers have filed six writ of amparo
petitions, two of which resulted in the release of two
missing persons from military custody.

——————————————— —–
EXPANDING POWER OF 99 SPECIAL COURTS TO ALL COURTS
——————————————— —–

¶9. (U) While the Supreme Court had initially designated 99
existing courts as “special courts” to hear cases of
extrajudicial killings, the order creating the writ of amparo
rescinded the designation. As it now stands, the 99 special
courts no longer exist. According to Midas Marquez, Supreme
Court Chief of Staff, the Supreme Court justices reasoned
that the writ of amparo would be more effective if human
rights activists and families of victims were able to file
petitions with any of the 800 regional trial court judges
throughout the country, thereby empowering all regional trial
courts to hear cases of extrajudicial killings. The Supreme
Court rescinded the designation of the special courts quietly
and media coverage on the issue has yet to appear. To date,
the Supreme Court claims 45 cases of extrajudicial killings
have been filed in the regional courts but reports no
convictions.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶10. (C) Though there is disagreement on the exact figures,
there is a distinct downward trend in the number of
extrajudicial killings reported in 2007. Whether the Armed
Forces or other groups are responsible for the killings, a
clear message seems to have been received here in the
Philippines. Either way, the Philippine government deserves
some credit for the decline. However, a decline in the

MANILA 00003881 004 OF 004

killings is only half of the equation; the government must
now show resolve in aggressively prosecuting the 45 cases
currently in the courts. As Alston pointed out, not a single
soldier has been convicted for any case involving leftist
activists. Embassy officials will continue publicly and
privately to highlight at every opportunity U.S. concern
about unlawful killings and to seek additional ways the USG
can provide assistance to the Philippine government in
combating these human rights abuses.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

You can also access this site through the State Department’s
Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/

KENNEY

   

 

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