UN monitor ‘bias’

PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — THE military yesterday lashed out against a United Nations human rights monitor, saying it was he and not the Armed Forces that was in denial for refusing to believe that communist rebels were behind many of the political killings.

At a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. expressed dismay that UN special envoy Philip Alston had dismissed a list submitted by the military documenting 1,227 cases of liquidation by the communist New People’s Army.

“I have the feeling that Mr. Alston is in a state of denial himself because he refuses to believe that the CPP-NPA could perpetuate such killings,” Esperon said. “I have a feeling he was not too enthusiastic when we submitted to him reports on the 1,227 liquidations.”

Esperon said he was surprised by Alston’s conclusion that the documents on the NPA liquidations were not credible because the rebels had not owned up to them, or because no human rights organization had taken note of them.

“So what is he telling us? That if it is owned up by the NPA, it is credible? Is he saying that the NPA is more credible than me or the AFP?”

Esperon seemed particularly agitated by Alston’s statement that most of the political killings were “convincingly attributed to the military,” and that the Armed Forces were in “a state of almost total denial” over the killings.

Esperon also disagreed with most of the findings of the Melo Commission, whose full 86-page report was made public yesterday.

The report blames the military for most of the political killings.

“My question now is what happened to our submission of a list of 1,227 cases of liquidation perpetrated by the New People’s Army? Were these victims categorized as members of activist organizations?” Esperon said.

He repeated the military claim that many of the killings were part of a communist purge, and referred to documents that were seized from the rebels.

He said the Melo panel was never able to obtain testimony from the Karapatan human rights group, which reported about 783 unexplained killings that they pinned on the military or the government.

“If, indeed, they were the complainant, then why did they not appear before the Melo Commission?” Esperon asked as he presented two civilians that Karapatan had listed as having been killed by the military.

“Worse, it [Karapatan] prevented the families of alleged victims from testifying before the Melo Commission,” Esperon said, adding the organization was quick to point an accusing finger but had no real interest in solving the problem.

Still, Esperon said he hoped the Melo Commission would continue its work to uncover the truth.

He said any military official who was called would testify before the commission.

In questioning Alston’s conclusions, Esperon said: “He was only here in the country for 10 days. Even… I can’t say I have enough expertise on the insurgency even if I have been fighting it for 33 years.”

His remarks were echoed by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who said Alston could not become “an instant expert” in 10 days.

He called Alston a muchacho, a Spanish term for errand boy.

“He’s just a muchacho there [at the UN]. We are making Alston like a very big person,” Gonzalez said.

But House Minority Leader Francis Escudero urged the military to heed Alston’s recommendations, saying that to deny the military had scalawags in its ranks would ensure the political killings would continue.

“The AFP should unmask the killers in its midst, put them under military arrest, court-martial them and, if [they are] guilty, lock them up,” Escudero said.