.- Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila, has called for an end to all political killings in the Philippines, whether perpetrated by government troops or communist rebels.
"We should tell the government as well as the rebels that it is wrong to kill," Rosales said in comments published in major newspapers Tuesday. "It is not one-sided. It is both sides."
Cardinal Rosales’ comments come in the wake of accusations by left-wing and human rights groups that the Philippine military has killed, abducted and tortured hundreds of political activists since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001.
They claim more than 800 people, mostly left-wing activists and human rights workers, have been killed and about 200 others have disappeared.
Some have gone as far as saying that the current situation is as bad as 1972-1981, when late dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law.
"What's going on now is nothing as compared with martial law," the Cardinal reportedly said, dismissing these claims.
While Arroyo's government denies supporting abuses against political activists and insists it is taking action to stop them, presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye reportedly acknowledged the Cardinal's words as "fair."
The government has called on investigators from the European Union to asses the cases of extrajudicial killings with forensics. The government said it would also welcome the participation of the UN Commission of Human Rights and the U.S. government.
"We believe that a more balanced view of the Philippine human rights situation is crystallizing and we acknowledge the fair statement of Cardinal Rosales as we welcome the fielding of a team from the European Union (EU) to help our law enforcers get to the root of these crimes," Bunye was quoted as saying.
The government is doing everything and willing to work with everyone to provide justice to the victims of the so-called political killings, he added.
Military officials are investigating the alleged involvement of some soldiers in the killings, but blame most on communist guerrillas.
In a statement, Communist Party spokesman Gregorio Rosal said the Cardinal’s comments are "gravely unfortunate" and belittle the gravity of the situation.