Cablegate: Melo Commission Report Sparks New Efforts Against

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1. (U) Summary: Lost in much of the media hype about the
initial reluctance of Malacanang publicly to release the Melo
Commission's report, the strong denials of culpability by the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the public
criticism by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial
Killings that the AFP was in a "state of denial" are a series
of prompt actions taken by President Arroyo and her
government to implement many of the Commission's
recommendations. Among these are: issuance of new AFP
directive outlining command responsibility; strengthening the
Department of Justice's (DOJ) witness protection program;
designation of special courts to prosecute these cases;
creation of an AFP Human Rights Office; revitalization of a
Presidential Human Rights Committee; additional funding for
the separate Commission on Human Rights; a formal instruction
to the DOJ and Department of National Defense to cooperate
with the Commission on Human Rights to constitute a formal
new fact-finding body on possible military involvement in
these killings and prosecution of any culpable individuals;
and, extension of the Commission's mandate. Senior Embassy
staff, including Ambassador, will continue our active
outreach to senior Philippine officials to underscore USG
concern and willingness to help, including with an upcoming
seminar and expanded funding for the Commission on Human
Rights. End Summary.


2. (U) After weeks of sharp media criticism about lack of
access to the report of the Melo Commission on political and
journalists' killings, Malacanang Palace released the report
publicly on February 22. At the Embassy's request, the
Department of Foreign Affairs presented a copy to the
Ambassador as well. As Justice Melo had privately briefed
Pol/C on February 9 (ref b), the Commission's most
significant conclusions included:
-- circumstantial evidence links "some elements" of the
military to the killings but without sufficient evidence
given the lack of witnesses to support successful
prosecutions or convictions;
-- there is no official or sanctioned policy by the military
or its civilian superiors to resort to illegal liquidations;
-- there is no definitive accounting of the actual number of
killings, but "even one is too many;"
-- the killing of journalists is mostly attributable to
reprisals from politicians, warlords, or business interests,
rather than agents of the government, and prosecutions have
been more successful given a greater willingness of witnesses
to testify;
-- President Arroyo's resolve to stop these killings is
clear from her public statements as well as the creation of
Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission itself.

3. (U) The Commission's recommendations included:
-- Reiteration by the President in the strongest possible
manner of her determination to stop extrajudicial killings;
-- Creation of an independent civilian investigative agency,
with authority to execute warrants and make arrests, as well
as promptly, impartially, and effectively to investigate
extrajudicial killings;
-- DOJ creation of a special team of well-trained
prosecutors to handle extrajudicial killing cases and Supreme
Court designation of special courts to try these cases;
-- Enhancement of witness protection program so as to
guarantee the safety of witnesses to the killings;
-- New legislation to require police and military forces and
other government officials to maintain strict
chain-of-command responsibility for killings and other
offenses committed by personnel under their command, control,
or authority;
-- Enhancement of investigative capabilities of the
Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of
Investigation; and,
-- Proper orientation and training of security forces to
make them conscious of command responsibility and its

Government responses

5. (U) The Philippine government responded quickly with a
series of new initiatives designed to implement many of the
key recommendations:
-- President Arroyo wrote to Supreme Court Chief Justice
Reynato S. Puno on January 31 calling for designation of

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special courts throughout the country to try cases related to
the "unabated killings of political activists and members of
the media," which the government views "with alarm and
concern." Chief Justice Puno on February 15 announced that
the Supreme Court would indeed establish special tribunals to
conduct swift trials of suspects in extrajudicial killings,
that such cases would "go high on the priority list," and
that the Supreme Court would be amenable to establishing a
reward system to reach faster resolution of the cases;
-- Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita issued a memorandum
dated January 31 to the Secretaries of Justice and National
Defense conveying the President's instruction for them to
"coordinate with the Commission on Human Rights in
constituting a Joint Fact-Finding body which will delve
deeper into the matter of possible involvement of military
personnel in unexplained killings...and prosecute the
culpable parties;"
-- In a separate memorandum dated January 31, Executive
Secretary Ermita conveyed the President's instruction to

Justice Secretary Gonzalez to "broaden and enhance the
Witness Protection Program to cover all witnesses of crimes
involving unexplained killings of an ideological or political
nature," to which Secretary Gonzalez responded in a February
19 memorandum describing the additional measures the DOJ had
already taken to comply;
-- In a separate memorandum dated January 31, Executive
Secretary Ermita conveyed the President's instruction to

Defense Secretary Ebdane and AFP Chief of Staff General
Esperon to prepare an "updated document on the doctrine of
command responsibility," which General Esperon then issued on
February 4 to the commanders of all major services, unified
commands, AFP-wide support and separate units as well as the
Provost Marshal General and subordinate units;
-- In a separate memorandum dated January 31, Executive
Secretary Ermita conveyed the President's instruction to the

Foreign Secretary to "submit a formal proposal to the
European Union, Kingdom of Spain, Republic of Finland, and
Kingdom of Sweden to send investigators to assist the Melo
-- In a recent letter to Justice Melo, General Esperon
announced the formation of an AFP Human Rights Office
effective February 1 to "enhance our advocacy and adherence
to, as well as promptly and strictly hold accountable anyone
from the AFP who violates human rights," while at the same
time reiterating at length the AFP's conclusion that purges
by the Communist Party and New People's Army are the
"correct, accurate and truthful reasons that explain the rise
in extrajudicial killings;"
-- In a February 22 letter to the Ambassador, the newly
appointed Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights
Committee, with the rank of Undersecretary in the Office of
the President, provided information on a "newly expanded and
strengthened Presidential Human Rights Committee," chaired by
the Executive Secretary and including the Secretaries of
Justice, Foreign Affairs, Education, Interior and Local
Government, National Defense, Health, Social Welfare and
Development, and Budget and Management as well as the Press
Secretary, Director-General of the National Economic

Development Authority, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, and
the Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission,
following the issuance of a December 8, 2006 Administrative
-- Release by President Arroyo on February 21 of an
additional 25 million pesos (US$500,000) to the separate
Commission on Human Rights, which CHR staff told Embassy on
February 23 will be used to establish barangay (village)
human rights centers, a forensic center, expanded information
drives, and training; and,
-- In a separate memorandum dated January 31, Executive
Secretary Ermita conveyed to Justice Melo the "President's

desire for the Commission to continue its work and to submit
to the President from time to time supplemental reports."

6. (U) Following the UN Special Rapporteur's remarks
February 21 (ref a) that the Philippine government was in a
"state of denial," President Arroyo stated February 22 that
her government took the UN Special Rapporteur's views
"constructively." She assured the killings would be resolved
and the AFP "shall continue to be a vanguard of freedom."

Embassy actions

7. (U) Ambassador has met in recent days with Foreign
Secretary Romulo, National Security Advisor Gonzales, Defense

Secretary Ebdane, Secretary of Interior and Local Government

Puno, and General Esperon to reiterate our concern over
extrajudicial killings and to urge the Philippine government
to take additional steps, such as those recommended by the

MANILA 00000609 003 OF 003

Melo Commission. Embassy is additionally seeking meetings
with Chief Justice Puno and Justice Melo to discuss next
steps. Pol/C is separately seeking meetings with the
Presidential Chief Legal Counsel, the new Presidential Human
Rights Committee executive director, the chairman of the
Commission on Human Rights, the head of the new AFP Human
Rights Office, the new head of Task Force Usig, and the
Undersecretary of Defense.

8. (U) Using INL funding, the Embassy's Senior Law
Enforcement Advisor will coordinate a two week training
course (bringing one FBI investigator and one DOJ prosecutor
to Manila) for forty Philippine trainees, including three
investigators and one prosecutor from each of the ten areas
with the most extrajudicial killings. DRL had been unable to
provide this funding, and Embassy is grateful for INL support
for this worthy activity.

9. (U) USAID will be submitting a proposal to include a
US$1 million grant to the Commission on Human Rights out of
reprogrammed FY2006 ESF funds, in addition approximately
$500,000 soon to become available from FY07 funds and a
projected $1 million in FY08 funding.

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