Philippine church group sues Arroyo over killings

AP News
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Posted: Jun 16, 2011 9:14 AM
Philippine church group sues Arroyo over killings

A Protestant church group sued former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday, claiming security forces under her control killed and tortured at least six of its members.

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines was labeled an "enemy of the state" under the Arroyo administration, said Bishop Reuel N.O. Marigza, the group's secretary general. He said many of its pastors and church leaders were liquidated, harassed, detained or tortured under the government's counterinsurgency campaign during her nine-year rule.

He said five of the victims were extrajudicially executed and one was illegally detained and tortured.

Arroyo stepped down in June last year.

Her spokeswoman, Elena Bautista-Horn, said she could not comment on the case before seeing a copy of the complaint, which was filed Thursday with a court in suburban Quezon city.

The civil suit, which is the first of its kind against Arroyo, does not accuse her of personally ordering security forces to kill, torture or abduct pastors and lay leaders of the church, but contends that she had "command responsibility," Marigza said.

"Since she is the commander in chief of the armed forces of the Philippines, ultimately she has to be made accountable for the crimes committed by people under her watch," he said.

The church group seeks 5.4 million pesos ($124,000) in damages.

Amnesty International last month reported that than 200 cases of disappearances and at least 305 extrajudicial killings during Arroyo's administration have not been resolved and "almost no perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice."

It said extrajudicial executions "continue with impunity" and can only be stopped by bringing those responsible to justice.

Arroyo's successor, Benigno Aquino III, has promised to stop political killings, but Aurora Parong, the human rights group's Philippine head, said that since he took office there has been only "minimal progress."