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Philippines president calls for measures to curb extrajudicial killings

[JURIST] Philippine President Gloria Arroyo [official website; BBC profile] Monday urged lawmakers from both houses of Congress to pass legislation to curb extrajudicial killings and disappearances [transcript], adding that the Philippines must also move forward with electoral reform, such as computerized ballot counting, and impose harsher penalties for election violence. Speaking before Congress during her annual "State of the Nation Address," Arroyo said:

We fight terrorism. It threatens our sovereign, democratic, compassionate and decent way of life. Therefore, in the fight against lawless violence, we must uphold these values. It is never right and always wrong to fight terror with terror.

I ask Congress...I urge you to enact laws to transform state response to political violence: First, laws to protect witnesses from lawbreakers and law enforcers. Second, laws to guarantee swift justice from more empowered special courts. Third, laws to impose harsher penalties for political killings. Fourth, laws reserving the harshest penalties for the rogue elements in the uniformed services who betray public trust and bring shame to the greater number of their colleagues who are patriotic.
Last Monday, a conference [press release; JURIST report] of lawyers and human rights activists organized by the Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] urged the government to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings by the military [JURIST report]. Arroyo has previously pledged to fully investigate the killings [JURIST report] following the release of a UN report in February, but rights groups say she has not fulfilled her promise. The Financial Times has more.

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