MANILA, Philippines -- Only seven cases of unexplained killings of political activists and journalists were handled in 2007 by the Philippine National Police (PNP) task force created to investigate such murders, a sharp drop from the 41 cases it investigated in 2006, according to a yearend report submitted to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
A DILG statement said Sunday this represented an 83-percent decline in so-called extrajudicial killings.
The statement said Director Jefferson Soriano, Task Force Usig commander, had also reported that the group filed last year 20 cases against suspects in the murders of political activists and another two for the killings of journalists.
The spate of extrajudicial killings, estimated by human rights groups at over 800 in the past five years, has put the Philippines on the human rights watch list of the United Nations and the US Congress. A UN special rapporteur criticized the Arroyo administration for not doing enough to stop the killings, many of which had been linked to government anti-insurgency operations.
Interior Assistant Secretary Danilo Valero said the sharp decline in the number of political killings last year, as well as the filing of cases against the suspects, ?underline the Arroyo government?s strong commitment to human rights and its firm resolve to put an end to these unexplained killings and put their perpetrators behind bars.?
Valero said the killings reported to the task force last year were those of activists Willie Jerus, Jose Maria Cui, Dalmacio Gandinao, Alfonso Capiales and Renato Pacalde, and journalists Carmelo Palacios and Ferdie Lintuan.
Valero said the yearend statistics showed ?the creation of the task force has been a deterrent? to such crimes.
Task Force Usig was created in 2006 as the government?s response to the extrajudicial killings.