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Rights groups scorn move to probe killings

Inter-agency panel described as PR stunt reporter, Manila

January 9, 2013

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The first meeting of a "high-level inter-agency super-body" formed by the government to investigate extrajudicial killings and other alleged rights abuses was met with protests yesterday by rights groups and activists.

"The victims and their loved ones have had enough of these extraneous super-bodies that are mere publicity stunts that do not solve human rights violations," said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of rights group Karapatan.

"What's worse is that this body may even attempt to conceal the continuing atrocities, especially in rural areas," Palabay said, adding that the "super-body" which met yesterday is inessential in solving cases of extrajudicial killings.

Government officials, however, are optimistic that the inter-agency body will be able to conduct an inventory of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations committed both by state and non-state actors.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the inventory is being done to prioritize investigations, re-investigations and the monitoring and prosecution of cases.

As of November 30, 2012, Karapatan had documented what it says were 132 victims of extrajudicial killings and 12 victims of enforced disappearances under the administration of President Benigno Aquino.

In a statement, Karapatan said the wave of illegal arrests and detention of 29 people accused of being communist rebels last month is "a reason for alarm."

The group said it expects incidents of illegal arrest, extrajudicial killings and other rights violations to escalate as the mid-term elections draws near.

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