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Cablegate: Grp Efforts Against Extra-Judicial Killings

DE RUEHML #2636/01 1740938
O 230938Z JUN 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

B. MANILA 2096

1. (U) Summary: The GRP has geared up to focus more
concerted attention on the troubling problem of
extra-judicial killings, notably of leftist activists,
journalists, judges, and suspected criminals. A month-old
overall task force incorporates two existing subsidiary task
forces within the Philippine National Police (PNP). Its data
reflects the extent of the problem, although human rights
groups tend to have even higher statistics of deaths.
Prosecution is ongoing in dozens of cases (including one
suspect who is a policeman), although there has apparently
only been one conviction since 2001. GRP officials are
looking at new programs to offer rewards, to improve a very
weak witness protection program, and to provide access to
databases that authorities can use to track down culprits and
possibly to receive information from would-be witness who
wish to remain anonymous. The Constitutionally-mandated
Commission on Human Rights is also improving its databases,
with some past assistance from the USG, and is working to
invigorate its national system of information gathering.
Systemic improvements advocated and often supported by the
USG, including a proposed new Executive Order mandating
police/prosecutor cooperation from the outset of cases and
ongoing judicial reform to improve the efficiency of the
legal system, should also bear fruit in the campaign against
EKJs just as with regular murder cases and cases involving
trafficking in persons, intellectual property rights,
terrorism, etc. Embassy's Law Enforcement Working Group will
continue to look for additional programs that could
contribute to improvements in this system, especially with
the expected arrival later this summer of an INL-funded USG
senior law enforcement advisor. End Summary.

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Task Forces

2. (U) In response to a string of extra-judicial killings
(EJK), the GRP on May 13 set up "Task Force Usig" ("to
prosecute") to coordinate efforts within the PNP to
investigate these cases and to bring the culprits to justice.
Under the leadership of PNP Deputy Director General for
Operations General Avelino I. Razon, Jr., TF Usig also serves
as an umbrella organization over a two year old "Task Force
Newsmen" and a new "Task Force Judges, Prosecutors, and
Lawyers," headed by the Deputy Director of the PNP's Criminal
Investigation and Detection Group, General Pedro U. Tango.
On June 19, Pol/C and poloff met with the two Task Force
commanders and their staffs to convey USG concern about EJKs,
to seek information about the PNP strategy to ensure justice,
and to determine if there are additional ways the USG might
be of assistance. (Septel will cover the Ambassador's June
23 meeting with the outgoing PNP chief, General Arturo

3. (U) According to statistics gathered by the Task Forces,
a total of 140 incidents of EJKs -- 113 against suspected
leftists ("party list members") and 27 against journalists --
have taken place since 2001. (No statistics were yet
available about cases involving judges, prosecutors, and
lawyers.) There was a sharp peak in killings of leftists in
2005 -- 46 -- up from 19 in 2004 and only three in 2003, but
Task Force officials were reluctant to provide an
explanation. Their statistics showed that killings of
newsmen held constant in 2004 and 2005 -- at seven per year
-- but dropped to two so far in 2006. Police investigations
have already led to the filing of 27 court cases for leftist
killings (while only making three arrests; the others are
still at large), and 21 cases in journalists' murders (with
arrests in ten cases, including one policeman). One case
involving the murder of a journalist has resulted in a
conviction General Razon and General Tango confirmed
separately that the PNP continues to investigate all angles
of the remaining cases, while simultaneously reaching out to
witnesses, to those who are at risk, and to civil society
groups and the Catholic Church that could potentially provide
assistance or information. In an effort to safeguard
journalists under threat, TF Newsmen also holds regular
meetings with the National Union of Journalists in the
Philippines (NUJP) to share information and to educate media
figures in regards to their safety. The national Task Forces
also now have their regional, provincial, and local
counterparts, at least on paper.

4. (U) Both Task Force leaders admitted that a major
difficulty is convincing eyewitnesses to come forward. The
PNP is examining new incentives, such as a reward program,

MANILA 00002636 002 OF 003

and is also working with the Department of Justice to improve
to its chronically underfunded witness protection program.
TF Usig has also now created a new database (including
details of the cases as well as -- whenever possible --
sketches or photos of suspects) that should be available even
to those in its field offices for the use by investigators
and local police in tracking down culprits nationwide. TF
Usig is also exploring the possibility of allowing anonymous
tips from eyewitnesses electronically to speed up
investigations even when witnesses do not wish to appear in

5. (U) Some of the investigations have led the PNP to
conclude that suspected Communist Party of the
Philippines/New People's Army members were involved in at
least 15 killings of leftists, while several deaths earlier
classified as leftist killings likely had no particular party
list connection. TF Usig's analysis so far is that there is
a mixture of reasons for the killings, involving not only
CPP/NPA but also "suspected military and police personnel"
and "possible destabilizing forces."

Other Estimates, Latest Killings

6. (SBU) Philippine human rights group Karapatan (itself
made up of several leftist organizations) puts the number of
leftist killings at 684 since June 2001, including 96 in
2006. The NUJP disputes Task Force Newsmen's figure of 27
incidents, claiming that 44 have been killed. The Philippine
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also has different
statistics than TF Usig, but its officials have questioned
whether higher numbers last year in particular may reflect
better information gathering rather than a genuine surge of
violence. Incidents continue: on June 19, a married couple
working as part-time radio commentators were gunned down as
they left a public market in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato,
Mindanao. On June 20, a former CPP/NPA member -- who had
since left the CPP/NPA to work for Karapatan -- was gunned
down near his home in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. On June
22, a lawyer in Metro Manila was shot and killed, along with
her pastor, by two men as she left her Bible study class,
although it is far from clear that she was a target as a

The Commission on Human Rights

7. (U) Pol/C and poloff met on June 15 with CHR Chairwoman
Purificacion Quisumbing to discuss the CHR strategy on EJKs.
The CHR on May 23 had issued a strongly worded press release
condemning the killings and demanding accountability,
regardless of who was responsible (ref b). Quisumbing
described a recent visit from TF Usig, seeking to enhance
cooperation. The CHR offered access to its broad database,
which not only compiles information but also enables the CHR
to communicate more effectively with its many regional and
provincial offices. USG assistance contributed to part of
this upgrade. In mid-July, the CHR plans to unveil the new
database at its regional office in Davao City and make it
available to the public and NGOs wishing to report and/or
research EJK cases. Mission is planning to send a
representative to attend the rollout event.

Systematic Improvements

8. (U) In addition to the creation of the PNP task forces
and the on-going CHR improvements and investigations, the GRP
has taken other steps to address more systemic rule of law
issues that hamper effective prosecutions and convictions.
At our urging, the Department of the Interior and Local
Government (DILG) drafted an Executive Order (EO) that would
mandate cooperation between police and prosecutors from the
outset of a case; at present, the role of the police ends
when charges are filed and/or an arrest is made -- the case
is then considered by the PNP as "solved." The EO -- which
DILG Secretary Puno confirmed recently he had sent to
President Arroyo for signature -- will help ensure that
police gather the evidence needed by prosecutors for an
effective trial. Furthermore, ongoing judicial reform --
supported by USAID technical assistance working with the
Philippine Supreme Court -- has reduced the backlog of cases,
provided training for prosecutors and judges, and shared best
practices between U.S. and Philippine judges.

MANILA 00002636 003 OF 003

9. (U) Comment: Changing the seeming culture of impunity,
transforming PNP operational effectiveness, and improving the
delivery of justice throughout the Philippines are long-term
challenges that are central to the US Mission's objectives in
the Philippines. Resource deficiencies and lack of training
within the Philippine government remain major constraints;
overall, there is a sadly low rate of arrests and convictions
for all types of crimes, including terrorism, trafficking in
persons, and intellectual property right violations. The
Mission's Law Enforcement Working Group will continue to seek
additional programs that can contribute to improvements in
this system, especially with the expected arrival later this
summer of an INL-funded USG senior law enforcement advisor to
the PNP.

© Scoop Media

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