Friday, December 21, 2007

Philippines' Arroyo praises troops on human rights

December 21, 2007
The Boston Globe

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo praised the military for being more responsive to human rights on Friday, less than a month after the United Nations criticized Manila for failing to stop troops executing activists.

more stories like this"During Human Rights Day, the report about political killings showed a very, very drastic reduction in 2007, compared to previous years," Arroyo said, without citing figures, during a speech to commemorate the founding at the country's main military base.

Local human rights groups say nearly 900 people have been killed since Arroyo came to power in 2001 and more than 180 have disappeared and are feared murdered.

Karapatan, a human rights organization that estimates that 68 people have been killed in the first 10 months of 2007, said the speech was an insult to victims.

"Mrs Arroyo distorts the truth and shows her callous disregard for the victims of human rights violations by her armed forces," Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said in a statement.

The UN has said that soldiers were killing left-wing activists as part of a counter-insurgency campaign against communist rebels.

The military has denied that the murder rate is so high and that the killings are tactical. It blames the deaths, often carried out by masked men on motorbikes, on an internal purge within the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Arroyo, who has been one of the harshest critics of human rights abuses by Myanmar, said the army had made progress in reducing the threat from the NPA, which has cadres dotted around the archipelago who engage in tit-for-tat battles with soldiers.

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