Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PGMA urged to discuss extrajudicial killings with the Pope

** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE *** NEWS RELEASE **

For Immediate Release on June 30, 2006

PGMA urged to discuss extrajudicial killings with the Pope

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to inform His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI of the numerous extrajudicial killings taking place in the Philippines and see if he congratulates her with another “well done”.

In a letter to PGMA dated June 29, AHRC stated that the percentage of killings in the Philippines ranks among the highest in Asia and Pope Benedict will naturally have a keen interest in this matter, with the first commandment being 'thou shall not kill'.

“Your government deserves to take credit for the abolition of the death penalty, together with the many persons, in the Philippines and elsewhere, who have fought for many years to abolish the death sentence. It is a mark of respect for life and recognition that the right to take away life does not belong to any individual or institution. The significance attached to this is lost however, when the same government continues to engage in extrajudicial killings,” the AHRC said.

Pope Benedict will also be interested to know, AHRC added, that priests, nuns and activists from Christian organizations have been among the persons killed.
“The AHRC urges you to bring this matter to the attention of Pope Benedict even at this late stage, and to inform him whether you, as the head of state, are determined to end these killings immediately,” the AHRC’s letter read.
The letter, signed by AHRC Executive Director Basil Fernando, was written after he saw a press photograph of PGMA with Pope Benedict. The caption said the President informed the Pope about the abolition of the death penalty. The AHRC is a regional non-governmental human rights organization of lawyers that has been pressing the Philippine government to effectively stopped extrajudicial killings.
Since the beginning of 2004, it is said that approximately 290 people have been killed in the Philippines in extrajudicial processes.
Human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the Saint Thomas More Law Center of the Urban Poor Associates (UPA), have received death threats for filing cases against government officials violating housing rights. -30-

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