EU increases aid for Philippines to curb extra-judicial slays
MANILA, Philippines—The European Union said Thursday it would increase aid to the Philippines to help police investigations, amid a wave of political killings that rights groups say the government has failed to address.
The 10-million-euro ($14 million) package comes on top of 3.9 million euros donated in 2009 to improve Philippine police competence in collecting material evidence at crime scenes, EU ambassador to Manila Guy Ledoux said.
The fresh aid was announced when the European Union Delegation met with Philippine National Police chief Director General Raul Bacalzo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in Camp Crame Thursday.
They discuss developments of the P234 million EU-Philippines Justice Support Program, which began in November 2009.
“The EU-Philippines Justice Support Program is the European Union answer to the request of the government for technical assistance in addressing in the problem of extra-legal killings,” Bacalzo said.
Bacalzon expressed optimism that at the “end of this program, it will bring efficient and positive results to further strengthen the PNP’s commitment to deliver a more credible, reliable and effective service to the public. “
“Through technical assistance and training, the professional capacity and determination of our personnel to provide quality service and prompt action to address such issues were enhanced,” he said.
Ambassador Guy Ledoux, head of the EU Delegation, noted an improvement in the Philippine investigators’ process of gathering evidence when looking into extra-judicial killings.
De Lima said the “significant improvement of the quality of the investigations” as a result of the training and equipment provided by the program “contributes immensely to the work of our prosecutors, public attorneys and judges who will have better evidence to fully address criminality.”
“This is a big step for the country to move forward towards ending the culture of impunity that plagues the justice system,” de Lima said.
Ledoux noted that during the first year of the Aquino administration, 90 cases of extra judicial killings were recorded compared to the average of 139 political slays per year during the previous administration.
Police officers, prosecutors and judges have been trained on inter-institutional coordination, criminal intelligence, personal safety and witness protection, Ledoux said, quoting a report of the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights.
“It will address the issue of accessibility of the justice system with the objective to better serve the poor and vulnerable and it aims to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system to fight impunity for major human rights violations,” he said.
The EU envoy also handed over DNA and fingerprint sample collection kits, and other crime scene equipment.
But Ledoux acknowledged that the “impact of the changes and reforms initiated with the EPJUST is long term and will only be felt over time.”
The visit came in the wake of a rights watchdog report, saying President Benigno Aquino has failed to curb extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses by the military during his first year in office.
The New York-based Human Rights Watchdog on Tuesday said that “there is a continued pattern of extra-judicial killings of leftist activists.”
HRW’s deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson in a 98-page report said that “despite several strong statements…what we’ve seen is that in many ways, the pattern remains the same.”
In the report, HRW documented what it said was “strong evidence” of the military being involved in the killings of seven activists and the disappearances of three others during Aquino’s term that began a year ago.
Many soldiers make no distinction between leftist groups, who wage peaceful protests, and communist insurgents who have been pursuing a guerrilla war to seize power for more than four decades, according to the report.
Pearson said, just as with previous governments, Aquino’s administration had been unable or unwilling to punish accused soldiers.
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