Friday, December 14, 2007

Letter to King Juan Carlos 1 of Spain

King Juan Carlos I. of Spain has commented Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for being "at the forefront of liberties and the defence of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us satisfaction". In the light of the continuation of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other grave human rights abuses, this statement begs the questions, whether the King has considered the recently published report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston.

Below is a sample letter to King Juan Carlos I. of Spain, asking him to bring up the human rights issues discussed in the Alston Report with authorities in the Philippines.


Your Excellency, King Juan Carlos I. of Spain, December 14, 2007

In reference to the visit of Philippines’ President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Madrid on 5 December 2007, we would like to ask Your Excellency to reconsider a public statement made towards Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whereas her government were “at the forefront of liberties and the defence of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us satisfaction [and that was] applauded by the international community,” and that the Philippines were “opening the way to democracy in Asia.”[1]

While Your Excellency rightly acknowledges the abolition of the death penalty by the Philippine government in 2006, Your laudation also starkly contrasts with the bleak picture of the Philippines human rights situation painted in recent reports by organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

Over the past six years, there have been many extrajudicial executions in the Philippines – the exact total number is contested and ranges from 100 to over 800. These killings have eliminated civil society leaders, human rights defenders, trade unionists, land reform advocates, journalists and even church workers.

The so-called Alston report stated that “the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains in a state of almost total denial (…) of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.” The democratic rights of the people of the Philippines are under serious threat and the priorities of the criminal justice system have been distorted, Alston reports.

As a state party to a vast array of international human rights treaties, the Government of the Philippines has the clear duty to investigate alleged violations of the right to life, including politically motivated killings. However, there has yet to be a final conviction of perpetrators of politically motivated killings from the security services.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is therefore also personally answerable, since the recent spree of killings, many of them of leftist activists, started under her term and has yet to end. As the above reports document, the killings are the result of a new counterinsurgency strategy: This strategy breaks faith with the country’s experiment in widening the democratic space.

President Arroyo has recently honoured the infamous former General Jovito Palparan during her State of the Nation Address and singling him out for specific praise. Many have hence criticised, that she would pay lip service to principle, while placing personal patronage with military commanders - answerable to human rights abuses under the command responsibility doctrine - above that same principle.

Your Excellency may have not received a copy of the Alston report or other reports on extrajudicial executions in the Philippines, such as of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch or the EU Commission’s Joint-Needs Assessment Mission in June 2007.

We would like to ask you, to discuss the findings of such reports with the Spanish foreign office, the Philippine Embassy in Spain, the Philippine Government and - most importantly - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make an end to extrajudicial executions in the Philippines.

Yours faithfully,


Please send a fax to:

D. Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministerio de asuntos exteriores y de cooperación
Plaza de la Provincia, 1
28071 Madrid

Joseph D. Bernardo y Medina
Philippine Ambassador to Spain
Philippine Embassy in Madrid
Calle Eresma 2 28002 Madrid Telf. No. (34) 91-782.38.30 Fax No.(34) 91-411.66.06

Luis Arias Romero
Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines
Embassy of Spain in Makati, Philippines5th floor, A.C.T. Tower.135, Sen. Gil J. Puyat Av.1251 Makati, Metro ManilaPhone: (+63) 2 818 55 26Fax: (+63) 2 810 28 85

[1] Quoted from: Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Spanish King Hails Arroyo, RP Democracy”, 5 December 2007.


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