Thu, Feb 01, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Arroyo rebuts charges of 800 political killings

AP , MANILA

Philippine communist rebels and some soldiers have been involved in political killings, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said yesterday, but she defended the military against charges of human rights violations.

Arroyo, addressing foreign diplomats at the presidential palace a day after receiving a fact-finding report on political killings, lamented her nation's "dangerous predilection to want to subvert democracy through the barrel of a gun."

She vowed to put an end to the "never-ending pattern of violence."

"Investigations suggest links to both right and left, to communist rebels, as well as possibly elements of our military," she said.

The head of the fact-finding commission, former Supreme Court justice Jose Melo, was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper on Tuesday as saying that soldiers were involved in a majority of the political assassinations, and that their superiors should be held accountable.

Arroyo has not disclosed the report's contents, and Melo has refused to make details public.

The president said the military is "deeply involved in this effort to check its ranks, and protect the name and prestige of the military organization and the majority of our soldiers from the stigma of this issue."

"I believe 99.9 percent of our military are good, hardworking and patriotic Filipinos," she said.

The Philippine human rights group Karapatan has listed more than 800 people allegedly gunned down by security forces since 2001. It was unclear how many of the cases were investigated by Melo's commission.

Instead of referring to the fact-finding report, Arroyo cited a separate police probe that said that New People's Army rebels had killed 23 of their own men.

Without specifying figures, she said there was a discrepancy between the number of victims of political killings reported by communist "front organizations" and police records.

"It's disheartening to contemplate that anyone upholding people's rights could engage in such deeds," she said, referring to left-wing groups.

Arroyo urged relatives of victims, witnesses, and activists to present their evidence to "serve the high cause of justice."

Left-wing groups have refused to participate in the Melo investigation, saying it was meant to shield Arroyo from any culpability.

Melo named retired major general Jovito Palparan, who was described by Karapatan as a "butcher" and "executioner," as one of the commanders who could be held responsible.

Palparan has denied involvement in any wrongdoing, calling the allegations propaganda.

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