, OCTOBER 2, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo gave marching orders yesterday to newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Avelino Razon to intensify the campaign against unexplained killings and human rights violations.

Mrs. Arroyo gave the directive in her speech at the turnover ceremonies at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City where Razon took over the top PNP post from outgoing Director General Oscar Calderon, who retired yesterday.

She pointed out that Razon used to head the PNP’s Task Force Usig, which investigates the killings of journalists and political activists.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines had reported that over 50 journalists have been killed since the Arroyo administration took over in 2001.

“I also instruct General Razon to continue to be on top of Task Force Usig, except that now he is chief PNP, his perspective must be wider now. It must not be only on police action but the entire criminal justice system,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

She directed the new PNP chief to submit to her an update on the arrests, convictions and imprisonment of those responsible for the killings of political activists and journalists.

“If Oca Calderon’s legacy to the PNP is housing, I’m hoping that Sonny Razon’s legacy would be on human rights,” she said in Filipino.

She reiterated that her administration deplores any and all killings of political activists, noting that she personally met with members of the journalism community and human rights groups.

“We share their outrage and (desire) to stop the killings,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

She pointed out that Malacañang is following the recommendations of the Melo Commission that investigated the killings, including the establishment of separate courts and improving the investigative capability of the PNP. The commission headed by retired Supreme Court associate justice Jose Melo was formed by Mrs. Arroyo to investigate the unexplained killings.

She said she has also ordered increased funding for more investigators.

Mrs. Arroyo also warned erring police officers that rogue elements in the PNP and the Armed Forces involved in the killings would be immediately brought to justice.

She said the Philippines has an unfortunate history of political violence by those on the Left and the Right, and “we hope to break that cycle once and for all.”

“No one should have to die for speaking out for their political beliefs. But let it also be noted that terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf and armed communists are a threat to the sovereignty of the nation and must be checked once and for all,” she said.

Razon has lined up a four-point program for the PNP to move forward and be able to get back the old glory of the police force.

“Help me move the PNP forward. Help me give life once more to the words ‘To Serve and Protect’ which is and should always be our battle cry,” Razon said during the turnover ceremonies.

Razon formally took over the helm of the PNP yesterday after Calderon’s retirement from the service upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Razon, who was the first head of Task Force Usig when it was created in May 2006, said he will abide by the order of the President.

“Let us bring back the old glory of the police force when the mere sight of the man in uniform evoked respect and a feeling of safety and security among the citizenry,” said Razon. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

‘Arroyo lied to UN on HR situation’ By Katherine Adraneda Tuesday, October 2, 2007

(STAR) Action speaks louder than words.

This was the reaction of human rights advocates in the country to President Arroyo’s pronouncements before the 62nd United Nations General Assembly in New York that her administration has respect for human rights.

“Respecting human rights? Action speaks louder than words. The continuing spate of enforced disappearance, extrajudicial killings, occurrences of torture and illegal arrests, prohibitions of protests and other derogations on civil liberties are a testament (that) proves that Mrs. Arroyo is lying,” asserted Ruth Cervantes, spokesperson for Karapatan.

Militant umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said “the numbers speak louder than GMA’s words.”

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan, pointed out that hundreds of people, including activists or persons merely suspected of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), were reportedly killed while hundreds more went missing since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

Data from Karapatan showed that there are more than 800 victims of unexplained killings while there are almost 200 victims of enforced disappearance in the country in the last six years.

Militants insist that state forces committed these human rights violations in the country through the Arroyo administration-sanctioned internal policy of the military called Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which supposedly aims to exterminate the so-called Left.

“Incredibly, to date, not one military official has been made accountable,” Reyes said.

In her speech at the UN General Assembly, Mrs. Arroyo sent the message that the Philippines is the “most democratic country in Southeast Asia,” which respects and upholds human rights, as it does not tolerate human rights violations “at home or abroad.”

Karapatan has also told members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland that human rights violations continue to happen in the Philippines, and sought the help of the UN body to compel the government to fulfill its commitments regarding the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.

Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez made an oral intervention during the 6th session of the UNHRC.

“We went there to remind the Council that the issues we raised in the Alston report are not being addressed by the presidency,” she said during a press conference yesterday.

Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, also filed a complaint on the disappearance of her son before the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance (WGEID). – With Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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