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Philippines’ Arroyo orders probe into military links to deaths

Philippines’ Arroyo orders probe into military links to deaths
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First Published: Tue, Jan 30 2007. 02 37 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Jan 30 2007. 02 37 PM IST
By MANILA, Jan 30, 2007 (AFP) - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo on Tuesday ordered a probe into allegations that the military was behind the deaths of political and human rights activists. Arroyo said she had received the report of a special commission she created last year to investigate the killings, which have alarmed the Catholic church, international human rights groups and foreign governments. “I deplore the killings, be they from left or right, against journalists or activists,” Arroyo said in a statement. “We have a sorry history in our nation of political violence.” Arroyo ordered the Commission on Human Rights and the defence and justice departments to create a joint fact-finding body to investigate “involvement of military personnel in unexplained killings, file charges and prosecute culpable parties.” She said she would also ask the supreme court to create “special courts” to handle cases involving the killings and ordered prosecutors to boost the witness protection programme. Arroyo said she would also invite the European Union, Spain, Finland and Sweden to send investigators to assist in the probe. Details of the report, headed by former supreme court associate justice Jose Melo, were not made public. But one of its members on Saturday said the military, leftist groups and private “goons” (armies) of politicians were all involved. Armed forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said they would cooperate in the probe, acknowledging that “some members... have been involved in the deaths of some members of militant groups.” “More than condemning these acts, we have taken action to investigate them in order to prosecute those who are responsible,” Bacarro said. However, he also noted that the commission had found that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) had a hand in some of the murders, just as the military had long insisted. The 7,000-strong NPA, which has been waging a Maoist guerrilla war for more than three decades, has admitted carrying out purges of its members in the past but has largely denied it is behind recent murders. Human rights groups charge that more than 180 activists -- including journalists, human rights workers, left-wing politicians, trade unionists and lawyers -- were assassinated last year for their criticism of those in power.
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First Published: Tue, Jan 30 2007. 02 37 PM IST
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