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BETTER HANDLING OF UNLAWFUL KILLING CASES REF: A. MANILA 1704 B. MANILA 1702 1. (SBU) Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno has announced plans to convene a "summit" on July 16-17 primarily to examine ways to ensure more expeditious and effective processing of cases of unlawful or extrajudicial killings, notably those in which "state agents" may be culprits. Supreme Court Program Director Evelyn Toledo-Dumdum explained to Pol/C on June 25 that the "summit" will include representatives from the judiciary, Congress, and the Administration, especially representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, and Commission on Human Rights. The Chief Justice also plans to invite key leaders of civil society and NGOs as well as representatives from the media and interested donor Embassies. 2. (SBU) According to Toledo-Dumdum, the Chief

Justice is seeking "input to the Court that will be helpful in crafting additional procedures to enforce and protect civil and human rights" and, as such, has a broader goal than only prosecuting unlawful killings. She underscored, however, that potential reforms of the rules of court or rules of evidence that the Chief Justice might welcome would specifically benefit the handling of these cases in particular, but she acknowledged some reforms might require legislative action. Such reforms may include simplified procedures for the speedy disposition of cases, issuing "protective orders for witnesses" in cases of unlawful killings, and holding the AFP in contempt of court if it fails to produce -- or at least to report on efforts to locate -- missing individuals about whom a court had issued a writ of habeas corpus. Chief Justice Puno has publicly described extrajudicial killings as "an assault on the rule of law" and an "indictment of the judicial system." 3. (SBU) Toledo-Dumdum provided a copy of the March 1 Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 252007 that designated specific Regional Trial Courts to "hear, try and decide cases involving killings of political activists and members of the media." More significantly, the Order mandated continuous trials for cases involving such killings, and required that the courts conclude the trials within 60 days and issue judgments within 30 days thereafter. The Order also specified that "no postponement or continuance shall be allowed except for clearly meritorious reasons," and warned that "pleadings or motions found to have been filed for dilatory purposes shall constitute direct contempt and shall be punished accordingly."

4. (SBU) In a preliminary list of pending cases "regarding extra-judicial killings of political ideologists and members of the media" dated February 16, Court Administrator Christopher Lock identified 33 different ongoing cases, while indicating that, in many of cases, the accused remained at large. Despite a requirement under the March 1 Order for monthly updates on these cases, the Court Administrator has not yet prepared a follow-on to the February 16 report, however. Under the terms of the Order's requirement for 60day trials, at least some of these trials may now have concluded. Toledo-Dumdum promised that the Court would provide an update within a week and would seek to ensure full compliance with the terms of the ambitious Administrative Order. She lamented, however, that the judicial system still had a vacancy rate for judges of about 26 pct -albeit down from 33 pct in recent years -- and received less than one percent of the national budget for operating expenses. 5. (SBU) Comment: The overloaded Philippine judicial system -which the Supreme Court administers nationwide, unlike its U.S. counterpart -- remains imperfectly equipped to process cases of unlawful killings expeditiously. Furthermore, its success in reaching convictions has in the past sometimes been due to weak cases prepared by the prosecutors. A proposed new Executive Order mandating police/prosecutor cooperation from the outset of a crime, as well as the practical training on such cooperation described U.S. experts in a recent INL-funded, Embassy-organized seminar

for Philippine participants (ref a), should help to alleviate some but not all of these problems. The Chief Justice's determination to ensure that the courts do a better job in handling such cases is welcome, but even his latest efforts will take time to implement comprehensively. Visit Embassy Manila's Classified website: cfm KENNEY (Edited and reading.) reformatted by Andres for ease of