Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gun attacks, killings in Zamboanga alarm human rights watchdog

Dr. Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International in the Philippines, gestures during a news conference in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 15, 2011) – Human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, on Wednesday expressed grave concern over cases of gun attacks and killings in the southern Filipino port city of Zamboanga.

Dr. Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International in the Philippines, said the killings were alarming and called on authorities and local officials to exert more efforts in arresting those involved in the murders.

She also cited the kidnappings in Zamboanga over the years and said there should be more efforts to protect the citizens.

“Protection measures for citizens against killings and kidnappings are very inadequate. The recent killings and continuing kidnappings have sown fear among the people, especially when the perpetrators are not brought to justice,” Parong said in a news conference during the launching in Zamboanga of the annual Amnesty International Report on The States of the World’s Human Rights.

The launching of the report came a day after the father of one of the local member of the Amnesty International was shot dead in broad daylight attack in downtown Zamboanga City.

The motive of the killing is still unknown, but the victim was shot by a lone gunman while on his way home on a motorcycle.

“The city officials must ensure comprehensive investigations of these recent killings and abductions towards bringing prosecution and conviction of those who responsible for such crimes. If murders get away with their crimes, then the killings will continue. It must be shown to the criminals that they cannot get away with their crimes,” Parong said.

Gun attacks and kidnappings are not uncommon in Zamboanga City. Local officials said they are doing their best to prevent the killings and kidnappings and urged the citizens to help in fighting crimes by reporting to the police and military suspicious persons in their community.

Police said most of the killings were the result of vendetta or grudge. And security officials would say the murders were isolated cases, but Parong said: “If the killings occur almost everyday then it would be absurd to say the murders were isolated cases.”

She also cited several cases where the killers attacked their victims inside their own homes in Zamboanga. “We will really try to look at the (murder) cases and other killings in Zamboanga City. Senseless killings of people in Zamboanga are very alarming. The right to life is very important,” she said.

Parong also noted that extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances continue even under President Benigno Aquino III and that dozens of cases have been recorded since last year.

“The Aquino government has to step up its efforts to fulfill its human rights obligations in the country. The pattern of human rights abuses and failure to convict perpetrators of abuse must be broken by President Aquino and his government,” she said.

During President Gloria Arroyo’s time, more than 1,000 people, mostly political activists, had been killed and many disappeared and other human rights groups accused the military and police as behind many of the extrajudicial killings. (Mindanao Examiner)

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