Press Release
July 27, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to use the vast powers and resources at her disposal to address the grave problem of killings of leftist activists and journalists instead of asking Congress to enact new laws that are purportedly aimed as strengthening the hands of law enforcers.

Pimentel expressed dismay over the failure of the President to draw up a credible strategy in her state of the nation address (SONA) on how to resolve political and media killings and prevent their recurrences.

Instead, he said Mrs. Arroyo attempted to pass the buck to Congress by seeking the passage of the new laws despite the fact that existing laws are sufficient to enable law enforcers to wage an effective crackdown on extra-judicial killings.

In her SONA, the President asked Congress to enact laws that would impose the harshest penalties on perpetrators of political killings, including rogue soldiers.

Reacting to the proposal, Pimentel said:

"The President is merely interested in soundbytes. The matter of political killings by whomsoever committed may already be punished harshly. There is no need for new laws."

Pimentel also criticized the President's suggestion for Congress to pass laws to protect witnesses from lawbreakers and to guarantee swift justice through special courts.

"We already have an adequate law on witness protection program. All that the President has to do is to provide the necessary funds to make it effective. She has not done so. Obviously, she does not know what she is talking about," he said.

He also pointed out that the Supreme Court has already designated several Regional Trial Courts as special courts to try cases of extra-judicial killings in response to the recommendation of the Melo Commission and Malacañang.

The minority leader also asked why the President's SONA was silent on key recommendations of the recently-concluded summit on extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, such as the strengthening and expansion of the prosecution powers of the Commission on Human Rights. The summit was organized by Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Pimentel said there was also no mention in the SONA of the P10 billion Human Rights Compensation Bill which the 13th Congress failed to pass allegedly due to the Palace's objection.

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