Oct 032014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MANILA468 2007-02-09 09:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #0468/01 0400925
O 090925Z FEB 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000468



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2017


Classified By: Pol/C Scott Bellard, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) Summary. The Melo Commission’s report to President
Arroyo emphasized the need to ensure command responsibility
over errant military elements, and suggested some practical
ways to do this. The Commissioners see their role as
essentially over, with no additional budget or offices, apart
from upcoming briefings to UN and EU Special Rapporteurs.
They expressed appreciation for U.S. support and urged
Embassy formally to seek a copy of the report and to bring
speakers to the Philippines to discuss the concept of command
responsibility. End Summary.

¶2. (C) In their first meeting with non-Cabinet officials
since completing their report, retired Supreme Court Justice
Jose Melo — chairman of the Melo Commission created by
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006 to provide policy
recommendations on extrajudicial and unexplained killings —
and Commissioner Nelia Gonzalez, accompanied by secretariat
member Attorney Rogelio Vinluan, briefed Pol/C and Justice
Attache on the conclusions of the Commission as presented to
President Arroyo and about 20 members of the Cabinet on
January 29. The meeting, which Embassy requested, had
required the explicit blessing of both Malacanang and the
Department of Foreign Affairs, unlike earlier meetings with
emboffs. A staff member of the Office of the Undersecretary
of Foreign Affairs for Special Concerns sat in on the meeting
at the Chancery.

Command responsibility

¶3. (C) Justice Melo emphasized that the primary conclusion
and recommendation of the Commission was that the Philippines
must ensure command responsibility for extrajudicial killings
conducted by members of the military, and must destroy the
internal culture that views members of leftist groups as
“enemies of the state” against whom such killings are not
only tolerated but encouraged. The 86 page report — which
Justice Melo personally wrote — explained in some detail the
concept of command responsibility, which holds accountable
not only those who commit a crime but also anyone who has
information about such crimes and those in positions of
authority who should have known. It also explained the
emerging doctrine of state responsibility.

¶4. (C) Justice Melo noted that, in meetings with the
Commission, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff
General Esperon and now-retired Major General Palparan — the
latter, against whom many cases were alleged — had claimed
that they could not “control” troops under their command who
might engage in such illegal behavior. MG Palparan even
acknowledged to the Commission that he “might have
encouraged” such killings, but claimed that those were the
“individual responsibility” of whoever committed the
killings. General Esperon admitted that it would be
acceptable for members of the armed forces to “neutralize”
any “enemies of the state,” but claimed that neutralization
did not necessarily mean murder.

¶5. (C) The Commission’s report explicitly noted that there
was no clear evidence against MG Palparan or any other
individual senior officers, and did not call for charges
against any individual. Justice Melo underscored that the
Commission’s mandate had not been to investigate or solve
specific cases, but rather to “focus and prioritize.”


¶6. (C) In the full report (of which the President received
five copies) and summary presentation (of which Cabinet
members present received a copy) — all of which were
collected by Malacanang at the end of the meeting “to prevent
leakage” — the Commission urged:
— enactment of a statute to ensure command responsibility
for members of the armed forces;
— creation of an independent civilian investigative body
attached to the military, similar to the U.S. model;
— improvements to and better funding of the government’s
witness protection program;
— enhanced cooperation between police and prosecutors, so
that prosecutors can request additional evidence before
accepting or rejecting any charges filed;
— designation by the Supreme Court of special courts to
handle extrajudicial killings;
— expedited prosecutions;

MANILA 00000468 002 OF 002

— appointment of a special Presidential-level Fact Finding
team to investigate the Department of National Defense;
— training within the armed forces to eradicate thinking
about “enemies of the state” as fair game for killing; and,
— improvements in the capabilities of the Philippine
National Police and National Bureau of Investigation,
including modernization and creation of databases.

No constraints, but no clear future

¶7. (C) Justice Melo and Commissioner Gonzalez both said
that they felt no constraints upon their ability to examine
this subject or limitations on what their report should
contain. They noted, however, that the Commission had now
done all it could, unless additional witnesses come forward,
despite President Arroyo’s public call for them to continue
to offer ideas and recommendations. However, they no longer
have any office space or budget. Their hope had been that,
once the report became public, the families of victims would
be encouraged by the credibility of this effort and volunteer
to testify. They expressed puzzlement that Malacanang had
“for the meantime” decided to keep the exact contents of the
report’s recommendations classified.

¶8. (C) They also noted that they did not find credible the
claims by the military — as well as the PNP’s Task Force
Usig — that the Communist Party of th Philippines/New
People’s Army were responsible or many of the killings.
Even if the CPP/NPA hadcommitted killings, the Commission
decided to fous on how to rein in the military as “agents of
the state” with access to lethal force.

¶9. (C) ustice Melo speculated that President Arroyo may b
reluctant to release the report because she feas the concept
of command responsibility could trce back directly to her,
notably in any future impeachment effort. Attorney Vinluan
cited a legalprecedent involvinglate President Marcos
havingbeen held accountable for human rights abuses. Thy
expressed a small hope nonetheless that Presidnt Arroyo will
show true political will and insis that all commanders take
responsibility and ensre an end to any military involvement
in such kilings.

¶10. (C) Justice Melo added the Malacanng had now also
agreed that the Commission couldbrief the UN Special
Rapporteur on Extrajudicial illings, who will visit during
the week of Februry 12, as well as an expected EU Special

What the U.S. can do

¶11. (C) Justice Melo urged that the U.S. in particular help
— formally requesting a copy of the report via the
Department of Foreign Affairs;
— bringing in speakers on the topic of command
responsibility in the U.S. system, and having Ambassador
raise in her public comments;
— bringing in speakers on the prosecution of war crimes,
i.e. from the Balkans;
— continuing to demonstrate our concern at all levels of
government and calling for genuine resolution of these
incidents to bring all culprits to justice.


¶12. (C) The members of the Melo Commission are respected,
credible individuals, and the creation of this Commission
reflects well upon President Arroyo. They were clearly
frustrated not to have elicited more cooperation either from
the military or from families of victims, as well as clearly
not convinced that much action will result from their initial
efforts. They particularly expressed appreciation for the
encouragement and support the Embassy has provided over the
past several months, as well as for our initiative in
convincing Malacanang and the Department of Foreign Affairs
to let them brief us. The steps they outlined are logical
ones for the U.S. to pursue, in coordination perhaps with the
European Union and other key partners.

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




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