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CBCP join SC’s summit vs killings, abductions

MANILA, 16 July 2007—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sat down Monday with government officials, academe, civil society, other religions and stakeholders in seeking ways to end the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country.

CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo has named Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, CBCP secretary general Msgr Juanito Figura and media director Msgr Pedro Quitorio to attend the two-day summit organized by the Supreme Court.

Iñiguez lauded the summit, saying, “It can turn into a veritable effort to confront the area of human rights crisis objectively”.

Some members of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF) also graced the affair. The EBF is a fellowship of bishops from the Roman Catholic Church, Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Also present were Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) national chairman Henrietta De Villa, members of the diplomatic corps and international human rights organizations.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno, meanwhile, led the participants from the judiciary. The SC is taking an active stance in fighting extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances because they are seen as “an affront to the judicial system”.

Puno said they are looking for “holistic solutions” to the problems by examining and discussing all possible ways.

The process, he said, must begin from the examination of the case, the conduct of the preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice, the filling of complaint until its terminal phase.

“Obviously, it’s not only the judiciary that will be involved in the search for solutions to this problem,” Puno said, adding that the summit will find ways that would come from the participants.

But the chief justice clarified that there will be no discussion about the guilt on any part in the commission of the extrajudicial killings and abductions.

“We are not focusing on the guilt of any party in this summit,” he pointed out.

What the judiciary wants, Puno said, is to reexamine the writ of habeas corpus which is the only remedy being used by the victims.

The summit also aims to provide inputs to the SC in its goal of enhancing existing rules, or promulgating new ones, in the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, including the protection of witnesses.

It also aims to study the concept of extrajudicial killings and mysterious disappearances pursuant to the standards provided for by local and international laws, including that of the United Nations.

The SC said the summit also aims to revisit the rules of evidence and to explore more remedies for the aggrieved parties aside from the writ of habeas corpus.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, was among the speakers who discussed on command responsibility.

Tomorrow, the participants will break out into 12 groups and take part in a workshop. Each breakout group will be chaired by a SC associate justice.

The reports and proposals will be synthesized and then transmitted to the concerned government agencies for appropriate action. (Roy Lagarde)