Mr. Federico Mayor
International Commission against the Death Penalty
C/o The Secretariat
Edificio Torres Ágora, Serrano Galvache
26, 28071 Madrid
Dear Mr. Mayor,
PHILIPPINES/ASIA: The AHRC questions the membership of former President Arroyo in the International Commission against the Death Penalty (ICDP)
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is writing to express its deepest concern at the inclusion of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president of the Republic of the Philippines, as one of the 12 members of the ICDP.
The AHRC and its sister organisation, the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), which has Consultative Status at the United Nations, have been working for the protection and promotion of human rights in countries in Asia, including the Philippines–of which Mrs. Arroyo is a former head of State.
We have also been involved in the campaign against the death penalty in countries where our assistance is sought. Of late are the cases in Saudi Arabia where we are assisting Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic helper who was sentenced to death and in the Philippines the case of the Abadilla Five, the five torture victims who were sentenced to death prior to the abolition of the death penalty in the country.
We seriously question the credibility of Mrs. Arroyo’s membership of the ICDP in advocating for the abolition of the death penalty. During Mrs. Arroyo’s term as President in the Philippines, what we witnessed was not the execution of convicts but rather the extra judicial executions of human rights defenders and political activists, witnesses to court trials and complainants who were pursuing cases of human rights violations against the security forces. These executions were all done outside the parameters of the law and when executions are done outside the parameters of the law it demonstrates the government’s incompetence and inability to protect its own people. This is where Mrs. Arroyo and her regime failed grossly; a failure for which she has not yet been held to account. Her regime left hundreds, if not over a thousand of unresolved cases of extrajudicial and summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture and systematic threats and the intimidation of any person working for the protection of rights.
We have thoroughly documented this in our special report titled: “The Criminal Justice System of the Philippines is Rotten” published in Article 2 (Vol. 06 – No. 01 February 2007). Other investigation reports, for example, by the Melo Commission in January 2007 (Independent Commission to Address Media and Activist Killings), a body tasked to investigate extrajudicial killings; and that of Mr. Philip Alston in February 2007, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, are also available for your serious perusal.
Four years since the Melo Commission and Philip Alston’s reports were published, most of their findings and recommendations have not been effectively and adequately implemented. The implementation of these recommendations was negligible even during Mrs. Arroyo’s term. The insignificant and minimal success in the prosecution of cases was visibly obvious during her term. The legacy that she left behind therefore is the unresolved cases of extrajudicial and summary executions by state agents under her command.
It is true that it was during Mrs. Arroyo’s term as President that the death penalty was abolished. However, we must not forget that the campaign to abolish the death penalty would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of people who aspired for the abolition of this barbaric act of punishment. Even before Mrs. Arroyo’s presidency the social movement and the campaign for the abolition of the death Penalty already existed. These are the families of convicts who were sentenced to death but whose convictions were questionable. They are the families of executed convicts who continue to question the legality of the conviction, and execution of their loved ones; they are the local NGOs who devoted their efforts to influence the discourse to abolish the death penalty, they are the members of Congress who lobbied strongly to enact the law that abolished the death penalty and many other nameless faces.
The fact is among the activists killed during Mrs. Arroyo’s term as President are those who had an important role in the movement for the abolition of the death penalty. Take the case of Rashid “Jun” Manahan, a former coordinator of a coalition of local NGOs campaigning and lobbying for the abolition of the death penalty. He was killed in Davao City in August 2004 on his way to a meeting that was to discuss the abolition of death penalty.
We urge the ICDP to review and reconsider Mrs. Arroyo’s membership of the Commission due to the lack of her credibility. The ICDP should also take into consideration the negative implications of her membership of the Commission on the ongoing struggle and aspirations of the Filipino people for the recognition and protection of their rights.
Unless Mrs. Arroyo is either cleared of the suspicion of allowing human rights abuses to take place during her presidency or answers the serious allegation of her complacency towards human rights violations and her failure to protect the rights of the Filipino people, she has no credibility at all to advocate for other countries in Asia to abolish capital punishment.
Wong Kai Shing
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong
Ambassador Rafael Valle, President of the Support Group of the International Commission against the Death Penalty Madrid, SPAIN
D. Álvaro Lozano Cutanda, Consulate General of Spain, Makati, Metro Manila, PHILIPPINES
Mr. Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, OHCHR-UNOG, Geneva, SWITZERLAND
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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