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Philippine News Digest 119

June 25, 2007 · 

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Contents:
-Philippine military accused of `dirty war’ vs leftists
-It’s time govt gave small miners a break
-NY-based rights group indicts military in political killings

Philippine military accused of `dirty war’ vs leftists
Inquirer.net
Associated Press
June 28, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military is waging “a dirty war” against left-wing activists, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and not a single soldier has been prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

In a new report highlighting years of abuse in the Philippines, the US-based watchdog said it conducted more than 50 interviews with witnesses and relatives of victims of political killings, who pointed their fingers at security forces.

Two preliminary reports from a government commission that investigated the killings last year and a UN human rights expert in January also implicated soldiers.

The local human rights group Karapatan has reported more than 800 people killed and another 200 abducted since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001.

Most of the victims belonged to leftist groups linked by the military to a low-level, rural communist insurgency that has dragged on for 39 years.

Arroyo and the military have repeatedly denied the killings are part of a state policy to defeat insurgents, and have blamed them on an internal purge within the underground communist movement.

In one attack last year, police said masked gunmen dragged a Methodist pastor, Isaias Santa Rosa, a member of the left-wing National Peasant Movement, from his home in central Albay province and fatally shot him.

The body of a soldier with military IDs was found near the pastor, apparently accidentally shot by other gunmen. In May, police filed a murder complaint naming two army majors and 10 other men, but the case has not moved forward.

Human Rights Watch said it was “unable to uncover a single case of apparent extrajudicial killing in recent years for which a member of the armed forces was successfully prosecuted.”

The killings “appeared to shift into a higher gear” after Arroyo accused left-wing political parties of plotting her ouster last year. Months later, Arroyo declared an all-out war against the rebel New People’s Army.

“None of the incidents investigated by Human Rights Watch involved anyone who was participating in an armed encounter with the military or was otherwise involved in NPA military operations. Each victim appears to have been individually targeted for killing,” it said.

The government has created special courts to investigate the killings, but officials have complained that they could not prosecute cases unless witnesses overcome fear and testify in courts.

The Supreme Court has called for a meeting of judges, police officials and human rights advocates next month to discuss steps to end the killings.

It’s time govt gave small miners a break
By Nora O. Gamolo , Editor, The Manila Times- Barangay News
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The country’s small-scale mining sector provides direct and indirect employment and means of livelihood to nearly 300,000 people.

It generates or supports thousands of formal and informal small enterprises and businesses where they thrive, usually in ancillary support industries or support services.

Many subsistence miners are involved in gold mining in the metals sector, and in sand and gravel extraction in the nonmetallic sector. Individual or family mining businesses are in aggregates used in construction, and in industrial minerals (feldspar, silica, limestone).

Now, the small mining sector is the basis of the advocacy of a segment of antimining liberalization advocates that wants government to set up more controls on foreign mining investments, while encouraging the participation of small-money Filipinos in the industry.

“Small-scale mining is wasteful since there is lesser recovery of the desired metals. In fact, the waste products of the small miners are even sold to the big-time processors,” said Ricaredo Saturay, a geologist who teaches at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Sciences.

“The small miners cannot afford the technology needed to make their production more efficient and environmentally-friendly since it is expensive. Only large companies could afford these technologies,” added Saturay.

“It is saddening that small miners are always blamed for the pollution in the industry since they use technologies that are less environmentally friendly,” he lamented.

Many small miners are only involved in gold production, since producing other minerals uses more expensive technologies. In extracting gold from the ore, small-scale miners use cyanide and mercury, which are highly toxic to miners, their communities and the over-all environment.
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/june/28/
yehey/top_stories/20070628top7.html

NY-based rights group indicts military in political killings
By Christian V. Esguerra
Inquirer
June 28, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — A New York-based international organization of human rights advocates has released a strongly worded report which all but indicted the Arroyo administration for the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

In its 88-page report titled “Scared Silent,” the Human Rights Watch detailed the apparent failures of the government while outlining at least six ways which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could do to address the problem.

The Human Rights Watch, an international association of more than 150 lawyers, journalists, academics, and country experts around the world, said the findings documented the “involvement of the Armed Forces in the killings of individuals because of their political activities.”

In its report, the group criticized Ms Arroyo for announcing a “wealth of new measures” her administration was supposedly bent on doing to stop the rampant political killings.

The group also scored the military leadership for failing to “hold any of its members accountable for these unlawful killings, including superior officers who ordered, encouraged, or permitted them.”

The document, a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer Wednesday night, was the result of more than 100 interviews and research work conducted by the group in the Philippines between September and November last year.

The group urged Ms Arroyo to immediately issue an executive order to both the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police “reiterating the prohibition on the extrajudicial killing of any person.”

It also asked the President to bar the police and the military and other “executive agencies” from issuing “statements that are incitement to violence, such as by implying that members of nongovernmental organizations are valid targets of attacks because of their alleged association or sympathy with the (CPP/NPA).” -End-

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