Mon, Feb 19, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Philippine bishops say Melo report must be released

AFP , MANILA

Two senior Philippine Roman Catholic bishops yesterday joined calls for the government to release the Melo Commission's report on extra-judicial killings.

Bishops Oscar Cruz and Antonio Ledesma said releasing the report was the "only way to stop unrest on the issue."

"There must be findings in the Melo report that are against the administration. Hence, it resolved to keep it secret," Cruz told local media.

Cruz said the fact that President Gloria Arroyo ordered copies of the report to be given to the European Commission and to UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston was "enough reason for the government to open the same report to the public."

Ledesma, vice president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, told local media that "the people, particularly the families of the victims, are entitled to know the results of the investigations."

Last year, Arroyo ordered retired Supreme Court justice Jose Melo to head a special commission to investigate the killings.

suspects

The report has not been made public, but people familiar with the findings say it blamed certain members of the security forces, as well as communist guerrillas, for the killings.

On Saturday, the government said it was prepared to work closely with the UN and the EU to discover those behind a wave of political murders.

Human rights monitors say more than 830 mainly left-wing activists, including students, politicians and journalists, have been murdered since Arroyo came to power in 2001.

President Arroyo's office said in a statement on Saturday: "We shall continue to work with our partners in the UN and the EU and receive their constructive recommendations on how to proceed effectively in resolving and stopping the incidents of ideologically-motivated killings."

Arroyo has been under intense local and international pressure to stop the bloodshed, which her government has blamed on communist rebels killing each other as part of an internal purge.

The UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, is currently in the country to meet with families of the victims, as well as with Philippine justices.

The families of several victims of extra-judicial killings were due to meet with Alston yesterday.

Estrada

Meanwhile, the opposition said yesterday it will ask the country's special anti-graft court to allow former president Joseph Estrada to be released from house arrest so he can campaign for May 14 mid-term elections.

Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano told reporters a motion would be filed in the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) today seeking permission for "Estrada's participation" in the campaign.

Estrada, who is under house arrest and on trial for corruption, still remains a major political force in the country.

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