PHL asks HRW: Present info on military hand in extrajudicial killings
As the Philippines pushes for reforms in the mining sector, it vowed to go after those involved in extrajudicial killings of environmental activist and asked a global human rights group to provide evidence on military involvement.
“We have always maintained that we frown on extrajudicial killings,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Thursday. “The government has a policy on going after extrajudicial killings.
“If Human Rights Watch Philippines have specific information, we would like to ask them to give it to us and we will not hesitate to proceed and conduct investigations, and prosecute those people responsible for that,” the Palace official noted.
On Monday, New York-based Human Rights Watch called for an end to the killings of anti-mining and environmental activists in the Philippines, saying it has documented three cases of those killed by forces with ties to the military.
HRW noted the victims were opposing mining activities that would endanger their communities.
Lacierda read a text message from Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Colonel Boyet Burgos, denying allegations that military agents are involved killing activists.
Burgos also called on HRW to present evidence of military involvement in the extrajudicial killings. He said the AFP is open to pursuing leads should the allegations deserve further investigation.
“For our part, the AFP through its human rights office has been very active in improving the training and indoctrination of our soldiers, including our CAFGUs, to imbibe the promotion and protection of human rights, and strict adherence to the principles of international humanitarian law, in all our undertakings,” Burgos said.
Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units or CAFGUs are a force multiplier of police and military personnel in the countryside.
“It is not the policy of the AFP to use force beyond legal means, more so extrajudicial killings,” according to the military official. “In fact, our CAFGUs and their handlers are involved in numerous activities in the campaign towards the protection and preservation of the environment.”
Last October, Italian priest and staunch anti-mining advocate Fausto Tentorio was gunned down inside his parish compound in Mindanao. Four people supposedly with paramilitary ties were tagged as suspects, but no arrests were made.
Two other anti-mining activists were killed in March and May.
In January last year, environmentalist-broadcaster Gerry Ortega was gunned down in Palawan. His case remained unresolved, as the suspected mastermind in his killing, Palawan former Governor Joel Reyes, remained a fugitive.
“(The criminals) are being hunted down and we will not stop until these people are found,” said Lacierda.
“And we can assure Human Rights Watch International and Human Rights Watch Philippines that we are going to go after these perpetrators of impunity,” he added. — VS, GMA News
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