Press Release
December 16, 2007


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today challenged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make good on her pledge to strengthen the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP) as a key factor in resolving numerous cases of extra-judicial killings of leftist activists, journalists, judges and other victims.

Considering that the suspects in most of the summary executions are soldiers or policemen, Pimentel said the witnesses are usually reluctant to testify for lack of government guarantee of their security by way of placing them under the WPP.

He reminded the President of her commitment to beef up the meager budget for the WPP being administered by the Department of Justice so that witnesses to extra-judicial slayings would be encouraged to come forward and pin down the perpetrators.

This commitment was made by the President after receiving in February, 2007, the report of the Melo Commission which investigated the series of extra-judicial killings.

The President has likewise promised to augment the budget of the Commission on Human Rights partly to enable it to extend protection to witnesses who testify in its inquiries into the summary killings.

However, Pimentel lamented that this promise has apparently been forgotten judging from the constant complaints of the DOJ and CHR about the insufficient budget for witness protection.

"If the government could not protect the lives of witnesses, they could hardly be blamed for refusing to testify in court. That is a big obstacle to the solution of the extra-judicial killings. For without the witnesses, how could these cases prosper in court? How can the culprits be convicted?"

He observed that although the perpetrators in some of the extra-judicial killings have been identified and arrested, the litigation of the cases has yet to result in conviction.

Pimentel said it is very important for the government to show sincerity and determination if this present-day scourge is to be eliminated.

Noting the President's vow to achieve a "zero political violence" the opposition senator said "stopping extra-judicial killings is a matter of fact, not of political talk.

"The Arroyo administration has been long on words, very short on deeds on the issue of extra-judicial killings," Pimentel said.

He said as long as the President cuddles some generals who did her favors, especially in the 2004 presidential election, it is difficult to see how she can an end to the extra-judicial killings. Obviously, he said Mrs. Arroyo is afraid of incurring the ire of the generals some of whom had a hand in these killings.

"Moreover, the way it looks now, she is more and more trapped in the hands of some of the generals and is no longer at liberty to order them as she should, being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Unless she demonstrates by acts and deeds that it is she who is in command of the generals and not the other way around, we will have more of the said misgovernance that has characterized her illegitimate administration since its inception," Pimentel said.

Due to the spate of extra-judicial killings and the administration's wishy-washy way of handling them, Pimentel said it is atrocious and insulting to the sensibility of the Filipino people that the Spanish government awarded human rights medallion to Mrs. Arroyo during her recent visit to Madrid.

He said the Arroyo administration has even withheld the payment of compensation to some 10,000 victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorial regime despite the fact that funds for the purpose were made available since 2003 in the form of a share from the Swiss bank deposits of the late strongman that were recovered by the government.

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