[In the news] AFP says US report on killings unfair | The Philippine Star News Headlines
By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star)
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. maintained the military advocates respect for human rights and complies with the international humanitarian law (IHL).
“That (blaming security forces for killings) is unfair. It has to be substantiated. AFP has improved leaps and bounds since last year wherein we gave emphasis on the primacy of human rights, IHL and rule of law,” Mabanta said.
He said the data that served as basis of the US State Department report released last Friday could be outdated.
“From all indications, it (data) may be outdated. There has been a lot of improvements already,” he said.
Mabanta said unlawful killings are not tolerated under AFP’s new security plan “Bayanihan” which emphasizes the need for peaceful resolution of armed conflict.
In its 2010 human rights report on the Philippines, the US State Department blamed security forces and anti-government guerrillas for a spate of arbitrary and unlawful killings during the year.
The report said arbitrary killings by elements of the security services and political killings by a variety of state and non-state actors continued to be serious problems. Journalism remains to be a dangerous profession in the Philippines, the report added.
The US State Department noted that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigated 53 new complaints of politically-motivated killings involving 67 victims last year.
The CHR has suspected military and policemen in the killing of some activists critical of the government.
Mabanta said the AFP is working hand-in-hand with the Philippine National Police to ensure the protection of civilians including media.
The US State Department report, quoting military sources, also stated that 176 members of the AFP were killed while fighting with rebel and terrorist groups in 2010. The figure is higher than the 166 fatalities suffered by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the 10 deaths of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.
Mabanta expressed doubts on the figure and insisted the AFP is winning the fight against armed rebels.
“I beg to disagree (with the figures cited by the report). I don’t think it’s true. All our data showed that we (have) the upper hand in all aspects to include casualties and firearms recovered,” he said.
Mabanta said he does not know where the US State Department obtained its figures.
Military estimates as of end-2010 peg the NPA’s strength at about 4,100 and the number of Abu Sayyaf members at about 340.
The US State Department report also raised concerns about the recruitment of children by the NPA, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf.
Mabanta said the AFP is in favor of including the issue of child warriors in the peace talks with Muslim and communist rebels.
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