Philippine government criticised for failure to stop human rights abuses

Updated On: Jul 21, 2011

The administration of Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has been criticised for its failure to stop human rights abuses like extrajudicial execution-style killings and forced disappearances. New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the international community to pressure the Philippines on this issue.

Earlier this week, HRW issued a 96-page report titled “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” which chronicles the Aquino administration’s lackluster performance in curtailing and responding to rights abuses during their first year in power.

Full Report: "No Justice Just Adds to the Pain", Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines [HRW, 18 July 2011]

HRW said the country's failure to punish military officers responsible for these crimes was spurring more such abuses from state forces.

Elaine Pearson, HRW deputy director for the Asia division, said: “The Philippines can only bring an end to these horrific abuses if it is clear that anyone who orders or commits these will be jailed and their military careers will be over."

HRW said President Aquino could demonstrate his resolve to end abuses by issuing an executive order directing the police and the National Bureau of Investigation to vigorously pursue crimes committed by military personnel, under pain of being subjected to disciplinary measures.

Most of the alleged abuses studied by HRW involved the military targeting civilians accused of connections to the communist New People’s Army (NPA). One former soldier told HRW that his unit had been ordered to kill leftist activists and hide their bodies.

The report claimed authorities have failed to successfully prosecute cases of killings and disappearances due to poor policing and criminal investigation. Only seven extrajudicial killing cases have been successfully prosecuted in the past decade, and none have gone to court since President Aquino took office last year.

HRW urged the United States, the Philippines’ most influential ally, to monitor the progress and effectiveness of police inquiries into military abuses. It also called on aid donors to the Philippines such as the European Union, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and Australia to press the Philippine government on the issue.

Report: Rights group raps President Aquino: Killings go on [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 July 2011]

Report: Phl still fails to address extra judicial killings - rights group [The Philippine Star, 21 July 2011]

The Philippines returned to democracy in 1986, after a revolution that ended the authoritarian rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. But since then, hundreds of left-wing militants, legal professionals and journalists have been killed, or have gone missing.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has consistently denied involvement in extrajudicial killings, insisting that victims identified by human rights watchdogs were killed in legitimate counterinsurgency operations.

Analysis: Still, impunity [The Philippine Star, 21 July 2011]

In response to the HRW report, a Philippine military spokesman said that HRW had overlooked efforts by the armed forces to ensure soldiers are not abusing their powers. He referred to the military's human rights advocacy as "a continuing effort...trickling down to the troops on the ground".

Report: AFP disputes claims of human rights org [ABS-CBN News, 20 July 2011]

During his election campaign, President Aquino promised to end such human rights violations and corruption in the country. As part of a prominent political family, President Aquino lost his own father to what most presume was a military hit squad.

Analysis: Extrajudicial Murders Are a Blot on Noynoy Aquino's Year in Power in the Philippines [TIME (blog), 19 July 2011]

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