US group says Philippine death squad killed 298

Updated 21 May 2014
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US group says Philippine death squad killed 298

MANILA: A US-based human rights group said Wednesday that a “death squad” targeting criminal suspects in a southern Philippine city was organized by a former mayor and was responsible for nearly 300 killings in recent years.
Human Rights Watch said in a report that it had documented at least a dozen of the 298 killings from January 2007 to March 2013 based largely on accounts of former hit men, witnesses, relatives of victims and police officers in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte province.
Former Mayor Rey Uy denied the allegations and said they were based on testimony coerced and paid for by drug dealers and illegal gamblers.
Human Rights Watch said President Benigno Aquino III has largely ignored the killings.
Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said Aquino had “affirmed the government's commitment to render justice to victims of extrajudicial killings dating back to those that were perpetrated in previous administrations.”
Coloma said cases that were dismissed by prosecutors were ordered refiled by Aquino and that “interagency work to complete case buildup that will meet the standards of judicial proof will be pursued vigorously.”
Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, said there was “compelling evidence” against Uy, who reportedly called the targets — suspected drug dealers, petty criminals, street children and others — “weeds” that had to be uprooted in a “perverse form of crime control.” Death squad members who have quit were also targets, Kine said.
“The Tagum death squad's activities imposed a fear-enforced silence in Tagum City that allowed the killers and their bosses to literally get away with murder,” Kine said in a statement released by Human Rights Watch after it released its 71-page report.
The statement said Uy, his close aides and police officers had “hired, equipped and paid for an operation that at its height consisted of 14 hit men and accomplices” since his first term as mayor in 1998. His son lost the election to succeed him after he stepped down in 2013.
Aquino has “failed to condemn local anti-crime campaigns that promote or encourage the unauthorized use of force to rid city streets of 'undesirables,'” the human rights group said.
The group said that according to a former death squad member, hit men were paid 5,000 pesos ($110) for each killing. Uy personally paid the hit men on at least two occasions, Human Rights Watch said.
Uy laughed off the claim. “Everybody knows the house of the mayor, and they come soliciting help for this and that problem. It is easy to point to the mayor,” he told The Associated Press.
He suggested that the killings were “vengeance” from the victims of the criminals and rivalry between crime gangs.
“Certain individuals here coerced the so-called witnesses, gave them money to make up stories,” he said.
“They don't want me to return to power because if I come back, they will lose their businesses,” he said, adding that he plans to run again in the next election.
Human Rights Watch said the death squad also was responsible for the killing of a journalist, a judge, two police officers, a tribal leader, local politicians and businessmen. Uy apparently was unaware of these killings or was told by “handlers” of the gunmen that the victims were involved in drugs to justify the attacks, it said.


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 19 May 2019
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France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.