FEBRUARY 23, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - The government has vowed to take action against rogue elements in the military involved in extrajudicial killings.

President Arroyo said the government is not in denial over the killings and will take the necessary action to put an end to the murders which have drawn international criticism.

"The government is not in denial," Mrs. Arroyo said yesterday. "These killings will be resolved and the Armed Forces (of the Philippines) shall continue to be a vanguard of freedom."

Mrs. Arroyo made the commitment a day after United Nations rapporteur Philip Alston blamed the military for many of the more than 800 assassinations since 2001.

Alston said Wednesday that the military was in "almost total denial" about the need to take action on the murders, which have tarnished Mrs. Arroyo’s administration abroad.

"Our seriousness in tackling the issue of unexplained killings is clear in having welcomed the UN rapporteur for human rights to the Philippines, enabling him to do his work unimpeded, and to render his report in full glare of the media," Mrs. Arroyo pointed out.

"The UN rapporteur... has leveled some serious views that we take constructively," she said.

Alston acknowledged a higher number of killings in recent years was due to the government’s drive to wipe out the rebels, but dismissed the inner purge theory put up by the military as "unconvincing," saying it relied on old and fabricated data.

Mrs. Arroyo said Alston’s findings would be considered alongside the recommendations of the Melo Commission, whose report on the killings was made public yesterday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the government recognizes the problem and it "pains" Mrs. Arroyo to hear that some in the military may have been involved.

"The government and the President believe that 99.9 percent of our military are good, hardworking and heroic defenders of the nation, willing to lay down their life to serve and protect our nation from forces of evil and destruction," Bunye said.

For the misguided few who are found guilty of taking part in extrajudicial killings, Bunye assured they would be punished.

"That some among the ranks are misguided or criminal does a disservice to the entire reputation of our military and to our way of life. They must be brought to justice," he said.

Although Alston did not mention the possible involvement of some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) over the killings, the police will continue their investigation.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Calderon said the police will still conduct the investigation over the killings through its Task Force Usig.

Calderon said the PNP will use the findings made by Alston as a guide to improve their investigation.

Calderon noted though Alston was not able to appreciate the extent of the police investigation over the killings.

But Calderon said "the acknowledgment of Alston of the efforts of the PNP thru Task Force USIG is very well appreciated, and we have taken note of his own understanding of the situation and its complexities, including the issue of involvement of the local communist movement in the slay cases on a much larger extent."

AFP chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, meanwhile, said that he welcomed Alston’s findings but the Armed Forces is not in denial about anything.

"We believe that Alston may be in a state of denial himself," Esperon said.

He charged Alston had not investigated the military’s allegations that the communist insurgents were behind more than a thousand murders. -with Cecille Suerte Felipe, AFP

Palace releases report, vows action on political killings 02/22 1:00:09 PM

Malacañang finally released Thursday the report submitted by the Melo Commission on the extra-judicial political killings in the country and promised to take action on the matter.

The commission headed by former Supreme Court justice Jose Melo submitted its findings to President Gloria Arroyo on Jan. 30. Malacañang, however, refused to disclose the results of the investigation, claiming it was "initial" or "incomplete."

Bunye released the 86-page report to members of the Malacañang Press Corps, a day after United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston also called on the government to make public the Melo Commission report.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement that the government created the Melo Commission in order to get to the bottom of the political killings that have plagued the nation for many generations, adding that the government also invited in members of the international community to help expand the reach of the report.

"The report is in and the findings of the UN envoy have been added to the body of evidence. We welcome the report and the insights of the rapporteur and believe that these events are a positive step forward in stopping violence against journalists and activists," Bunye said He clarified that they are disappointed that the Melo Report itself was incomplete, not for want of sincere efforts to get to the bottom of things, but mainly due to the lack of cooperation of a number of victims and their families.

'We appreciate the apprehension of these citizens, but if we are to move beyond this cycle of violence, they must come forward and help secure justice. Accusations do not solve the problem; actions do," Bunye said.

He likewise said that it is painful to read the report's findings that some members of the military may have been involved in some of the crimes just as it is devastating when members of the New People's Army (NPA) take action to kill innocent victims or even their own comrades.

He pointed out that the issue is not about left or right but rather about right or wrong: "And on this point, we must be united in seeking justice."

He also came to the defense of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, saying the government and the President believe that 99.9% of the military are good, hardworking and heroic defenders of the nation.

"Our men and women in uniform are patriots who serve selflessly in pursuit of a strong, stable Philippines. That some among the ranks are misguided or criminal does a disservice to the entire reputation of our military and to our way of life. They must be brought to justice," he said.

However, he added, "The same cannot be said of the government's view of armed communist whose stated goal is the violent overthrow of our nation. Armed insurrection against the state cannot be tolerated, just as extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians cannot be tolerated."

He added, "For her part, the President has taken decisive action both before the report and also in answer to the report, to move the nation forward and stop these killings once and for all."

"The President will continue to take the necessary actions to lay out the findings, to seek the truth and take decisive action to stop these killings. To that end, she thanks Congress again for passing the Anti-Terror Legislation that will strengthen our nation and bring an end to groups bent on destroying our great nation," the presidential spokesperson said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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