President Gloria Arroyo said this barely two months after the Melo Commission submitted its report on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines:
“I have made it a top priority to resolve the killings of political and agrarian activists and of members of the media and to prevent further killings. And I am confident that we are on the right course.”
OK, Madame President. Thanks for that much-awaited statement. So what do you actually do to make convince us that the resolution of the problem is in the front burner?
Arroyo has taken the following orders (based on Inquirer.net’s and Malacanang’s news reports):
- Appointing Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol to monitor the progress of her directives.
- Directing the Department of Justice to enhance the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
- Directing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to delve deeper into the killings. She has already approved the release of P25 million for the Commission to apply to its general mandate under the Constitution which includes monitoring, investigating, education and training.
- Directing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Department of National Defense to come up with an updated document on command responsibility.
- Directing Apostol to officially request the Supreme Court to set up special courts to prosecute the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.
- Directing the Department of Foreign Affairs to request technical assistance from the European Union for the investigation of extrajudicial killings.
The human rights community must be happy about this news. Putting the CHR in the limelight is a plus. Let’s just hope and pray that the people whom Arroyo ordered to carry out her directives won’t goof up.