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PIA Press Release

Ermita to brief UN on RP's efforts to address extra-judicial killings

Manila (22 October) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has dispatched Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to New York to personally update UN officials on her administration's efforts to address the extra-judicial killings in the country.

Ermita, who left last night for the United States, is the chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), which was created by the President in December 2006 to "serve as the primary advisory body to the President in effectively addressing all human rights concerns/issues in the country."

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye said the President sent Ermita to the UN to explain the government's side on the extra-judicial killings.

He is expected to remain in the US for one week.

UN special rapporteur Philip Alston arrived in the country last February and stayed for 10 days to conduct an investigation into the killings. Alston is expected to submit his findings to the world body soon.

"In light of Mr. Alston's impending submission of a UN report on the matter, the President decided a couple of weeks back to send ES Ermita as Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) to New York to personally update UN officials on government efforts in dealing with the situation and to underscore to them the government's continuing resolve and commitment to address all forms of human rights violations, especially in light of the country's recent election to the UN Human Rights Council," Bunye said.

Ermita and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Purificacion Quisumbing co-chair the Philippine delegation to the UN. The President has designated Bunye as acting executive secretary in a concurrent capacity in Ermita's absence.

The government has filed a number of cases against suspects in extra-judicial slayings, while law-enforcement agents are pressing their hunt for persons linked to the killings.

Ermita and Quisumbing are expected to brief UN officials on the findings of the Melo Commission, which the President created to investigate the killings.

In keeping with the recommendations of the Melo Commission, the government has increased funding for the witness protection program and authorized the hiring of more prosecutors.

The President has also met with the journalism community and human rights activists and ordered the establishment of separate courts to expedite prosecutions of cases involving human rights violations and extra-judicial killings.

Aside from expanding the victim assistance program, she has also authorized increased funding for the hiring of more investigators.

The commission is headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo.

The Ermita-Quisumbing delegation is also expected to inform the UN that a number of cases of extra-judicial killings, communist insurgents were involved.

In her address before the 62nd UN General Assembly last month, the President stressed that the Philippines does not tolerate human rights violations "at home or abroad."

The Chief Executive emphasized that the Philippine government respects and upholds human rights on the domestic and international fronts.

"We support the efforts to revitalize and refocus the work of the UN in human rights. It is for this reason that the Philippines sought and won a seat in the Human Rights Council," she added. (OPS) [top]

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