Philippines says to help U.S. in probe on killings

  • World
  • Saturday, 24 Mar 2007

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines has offered full assistance to a U.S. State Department mission to probe allegations of extra-judicial killings by security forces and human rights abuse, the government said on Saturday.

Eric John, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for east Asia and Pacific affairs, will visit the Philippines next month to assess actions taken by the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the killings of hundreds of left-wing activists and journalists. 

"We take it as an opportunity to get the facts straight for the benefit of the American people, especially FilAms (Filipino-Americans)in the United States," Arroyo Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement. "We are an ally of the United States in democracy and the protection of human rights." 

"We intend, as we have done in the case of all well-meaning international institutions, to be transparent and candid in these matters, whether they pertain to violations by the revolutionary left or a few misguided soldiers," Bunye said. 

The Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international grouping of 140 parliaments of sovereign states including the Philippines, is sending a three-man fact-finding team to the Philippines also next month to look into the killings. 

Philippines human rights group Karapatan has documented more than 800 cases of extrajudicial killings, including political activists, journalists, farmers and students, in the country of 83 million people since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001. 

Last month, U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston said after a 10-day investigation into the killings that soldiers were responsible for many of the unsolved murders, with the Philippine military in a state of "almost total denial" about dealing with those responsible for the killings. 

The government and the military have blamed the communist New People's Army rebel group for most of the murders, saying the organisation was purging its own ranks. Leftist groups have denounced these assertions. 

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