Is there a connection between acting on a case of political killing and the Japanese government’s release of funding for an irrigation project?
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Seven months after the incident, a human rights watchdog in the Cordillera said that Task Force Usig of the Philippine National Police (PNP) finally conducted an investigation into the killing of peasant leader Jose Doton at the PNP headquarters in San Nicolas, Pangasinan on December 22.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reportedly ordered the investigation as she was allegedly being pressured by the Japanese government and various non-government organizations (NGOs) to solve the killing. According to Imelda Tabiando, deputy secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the release of billions of pesos for an irrigation project which is part of the San Roque Dam Project is being withheld due to the unabated political killings.
In a press conference last December 19, Tabiando said that Macapagal-Arroyo’s move is meant to show concern for political killings, particularly the case of Doton, secretary-general of Tignay dagiti Mannalon a Mangwaya-waya ti Agno (Timmawa), a peasant alliance in Pangasinan and Benguet that opposes the San Roque Dam project.
The irrigation project is worth P8.2 billion ($166.4 million, based on an exchange rate of P49.28 per US dollar), 75 percent of which will be funded by the Japanese government through its official development assistance (ODA), according to the Friends of the Earth in Japan (FoE Japan). The remaining 25 percent will be shouldered by the Philippine government.
“Friends of the Earth – Japan learned that Doton was shot dead on May 16 because he had been engaged in campaigns against the Japanese-funded project, namely the San Roque Multi-purpose Project,” stated Naomi Kanzaki, Development Finance and Environment Program Officer of FoE Japan, in a press release dated December 19.
Kanzaki said that the Japanese Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed strong concern about the political killings when they visited the Philippines last December 8 and 9. At that time, the Japanese officials urged Macapagal-Arroyo to address the issue of political killings, including that of Doton, before they release the funds.
The NGOs on December 7 submitted a petition, signed by 1,325 Japanese, urging Macapagal-Arroyo to solve the political killings. They also urged the Philippine government “to disband any death squads, private armies, vigilantes, criminal gangs and paramilitary forces operating outside the chain of command but with official support; to ensure that all complaints and reports of political killings are investigated promptly, impartially and effectively; and to ensure that those responsible for political killings are brought to justice in accordance with international standards.”
Aside from the FoE Japan, the other Japanese NGOs included the Amnesty International Japan, Campaign for Future of Filipino Children (CFFC), Citizens’ Group to review the “50th Anniversary of the Philippines and Japan Friendship,”National Christian Council in Japan and WAYAWAYA. (Bulatlat.com)