Commission to Probe Killings Gets Varied Reactions

Article excerpt

Congressmen are divided over President Arroyo's decision to create an independent commission to probe the killings of members of various leftist organizations and members of the media.

Administration congressmen lauded the President's move and proposed that the commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo be given until December to finish its task.

On the other hand, lawmakers representing party-list organizations found the probe body "unacceptable" for having members who are both subordinates of President Arroyo.

A group of congressmen led by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo has linked the Arroyo government to the 700 or so murders.

The congressmen said that for several years, the President failed to lift a finger in pursuing the perpetrators.

Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Gerry Salapuddin and Rep. Marcelino Libanan (Lakas, Eastern Samar) said the Melo panel should submit its report on the killings by the end of the year so the country can put the issue behind it.

Salapuddin and Libanan expressed hope that the commission can do its job fast enough to give the victims the justice they deserve and absolution for those wrongfully accused.

Salapuddin said they have no doubt on the capacity and integrity of Melo to give the issue the proper conclusion.

"Being appointed by GMA doesn't mean ex-justice Melo will be biased for the government. His unblemished record speaks for itself. He is trustworthy and credible enough to lead the commission," said Salapuddin.

In a statement, the group of Ocampo said such a commission should be truly independent and granted appropriate powers to investigate and hold accountable even high government officials, including the President and Commander-in-Chief.

The group criticized the inclusion of the National Bureau of Investigation director and the chief state prosecutor of the Department of Justice as members of the commission.

"The NBI and DOJ are government agencies tasked to investigate and prosecute many of the victims and their organizations branded as enemies of the state. Their immediate superior, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, is a member of the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COCIS) that is rabidly persecuting the legal left. Thus, we cannot expect any independence from the body," the group said.

The group also noted that by declaring that the commission will be "the only voice of government" on the issue, to which all other agencies would have to "clear their statements," the President has already revealed what may be her true agenda which is to make it a mouthpiece of her administration.

The group proposed that member of the commission should have a good track record in the defense of civil liberties and human rights.

"The President should mete preventive suspension to Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and other military and police commanders in whose areas the massive killings and enforced disappearances are happening. This is important to encourage victims and witnesses to come out into the open," the group said.

Commission will hasten resolution of cases - PNP

By ARIS R. ILAGAN

The Philippine National Police yesterday welcomed President Arroyo's creation of an independent commission that will investigate and prosecute cases of journalists and militants slain during the past years, saying that the move will hasten the resolution of the killings.

PNP chief Director General Oscar C. Calderon said that with broader powers and authority, the newly-organized body will be able to conduct a more thorough investigation of these murder cases.

"We hope that the commission will be able to generate the indispensable cooperation and support of all concerned sectors, particularly the party-list group Bayan Muna and its affiliates, similar to what we have established with some media organizations and cause-oriented groups," Calderon said. …