Thursday, November 29, 2007

UPDATE: Less written-about findings on the Alston Report

From the PDI Editorial:

Some of Alston’s sharpest words, for example, are aimed at Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Her office, he writes, “has done almost nothing in recent years to investigate the involvement of government officials in extrajudicial executions.” That kind of track record is simply indefensible, but Alston, a professor of law, probes deeper and concludes that the “Office of the Ombudsman has surrendered its constitutionally-mandated independence from the executive branch.” Considering the special role the powerful office plays in the administration of justice, this is a chilling but not unjustified conclusion. What exactly does he mean by that? He offers several answers, including possibly the most damaging of them all: “The Office of the Ombudsman often operates as a de facto subsidiary of the Department of Justice.”

That a constitutional officer like Gutierrez, one of the few so-called impeachable officials in the government, finds herself effectively a subordinate to a rankly political alter ego of the President like Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is a legal calamity. It explains why, as Alston writes, “Despite having received a significant number of complaints alleging extrajudicial executions attributed to state agents, no information was provided by the Ombudsman’s office indicating that it had undertaken any productive investigations.” It also explains why, to give just one of many possible examples, the Mega-Pacific anomaly became the perfect crime.

Alston also takes aim at National Security Adviser Bert Gonzales: “Senior government officials are attempting to use prosecutions to dismantle the numerous civil society organizations and party-list groups that they believe to be fronts for the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines]. While this project is sometimes discussed as if it were a dark conspiracy, it was explained to me openly and directly by numerous officials as the very function of IALAG [Inter-Agency Legal Action Group], which was established in 2006.” And who runs IALAG? Real “institutional power and legal authority over its operations is concentrated in the Office of the National Security Adviser.”

Alston concludes: “The most deleterious role played by IALAG bodies may be to encourage prosecutors to act as team players with the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police] in counterinsurgency operations and to de-prioritize cases involving the deaths of leftist activists.” This explains not only the rehashed charges against party-list leaders but also the administration’s convenient resurrection, as necessity dictates, of the communist bogeyman.

UPDATE: An Arroyo adminitration's handpicked Melo commissioner from the CBCP, Bishop Juan de dios Pueblos disputes the Alston report, claiming that Communists insurgents were the major cause of the extrajudicial killings of leftist activists.

Though, he admitted that insurgency is also a major cause of the killings, the AFP, Pueblos said was acting only to eradicate "communism" since they are now considered "terrorists".

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