In an open letter circulated Thursday in the Internet and addressed to newly-installed PNP chief Director Oscar Calderon, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said “it is not sufficient to say that addressing the unrelenting killings is a part of your agenda; it must be at the top of your agenda.”
AHRC executive director Basil Fernando said that aside from the letter, they were circulating a petition intended “to urge the government of the Philippines to take unequivocal steps to stop the killings in order to avert a new social crisis".
The group said that there have been more than 290 killings of activists since 2004. The AHRC, founded in 1984, said that as the petition was being launched Thursday, two more activists were reported killed in the Philippines.
The petition said the response of the authorities to the "extraordinary number of killings” is "completely inadequate".
“Both the petition and the open letter to PNP Director Calderon identify witness
protection as a key area for attention by the police chief and justice department,” Fernando said.
"The Witness Protection Security and Benefit Act (6981) does not appear to be operative at all. Nor are we aware of any efforts made by the police to recommend that persons at risk be recommended to the Department of Justice as beneficiaries under this law."
He cited the killing of Enrico Cabanit in Davao del Norte on April 24 as an example, saying that Cabanit's daughter survived the attack but “she has since received no protection, and the perpetrators of the crime remain at large”.
Similarly, Fernando said, Amante Abelon survived an attack in Zambales on March 20 but his wife and son were killed. “He, too, has since been unprotected, and witnesses to the attack also fear for their lives.”
The petition stated that the killings “speak to the government's failure to meet its obligations under international law, in particular, in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.
The AHRC launched the online petition with the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, Philippine Independent Church, and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants.
The petition also called on the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines “to play a stronger role in addressing the killings.” Copies of the signed petition would be sent to the Department of Justice, the United Nations human rights experts, the CHR and the Pope. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)