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Police and soldiers urged to disobey unethical orders

Appeal after new murder case implicates the military

Police and soldiers urged to disobey unethical orders
Rights groups have put the military under pressure to come clean about abuses (photo by Rene Sandajan) reporter, Manila

April 19, 2013

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A group of lawyers in Manila called on rank and file soldiers and police on Friday to disobey “immoral and illegal” orders from their superiors as extrajudicial killings remain a serious concern.

Human rights lawyer Edre Olalia warned soldiers and policemen that they will face the “pathetic reality” that they will be left on their own and abandoned to fend for themselves as a result of their actions “when reckoning time comes.”

"In fact, they should be moved by their conscience and assert their right to self preservation by telling everything they know," said Olalia, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

The warning comes a day after a court hearing on the killing of activist and church worker Benjamin Bayles in Negros Occidental province, in which two army enlisted personnel were identified as suspects by top military officials.

“Due to strong evidence and public opinion, the military was compelled to admit this fact in open court almost three years after the cold blooded premeditated murder,” said Olalia.

Bayles was murdered on June 14, 2010 allegedly by two men who turned out to be members of the Army's 61st Infantry Battalion.

Olalia, however, stressed that the case should not stop with the two rank and file enlisted men.

"It remains to be seen if this positive identification and admission could lead to a deeper investigation, determination of other guilty parties, including possibly superior officers," he said.

Olalia said that one of the problems with the hundreds of unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines is that when state security forces are pinned down on their culpability, top officials pass on accountability to rank and file personnel.

United Nations Special Rapporteur Phillip Alston, who made an extensive investigation into the human rights situation in the country, cited in his report that accountability for rampant extrajudicial killings should go higher up the chain of command.

Meanwhile, a government inter-agency body tasked with looking into extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights cases said it is looking into an initial list of 101 priority cases, including the 2007 disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who heads the committee, said the list will be subject to a final review by the body which includes the new head of the armed forces General Emmanuel Bautista, himself the subject of abuse claims by activist groups.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, there have been 137 cases of extrajudicial killings, 14 cases of enforced disappearance and 72 instances of torture since 2010 and up to December last year.

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