'Obama should raise human rights violations to Aquino'
MANILA, Philippines - Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged US President Barack Obama, on Monday, April 28, to raise the issue of human rights violations in the Philippines to President Benigno Aquino III during his state visit to the country. (READ: Obama arrives in Manila for 2-day visit)
Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued Monday, said the president's visit is a perfect opportunity "to press the Philippine government to follow through on its repeated pledges to improve respect for human rights and accountability for serious abuses."
"While the administration of President Benigno Aquino III has made several key reforms, it has failed to match its rhetoric with meaningful action to end impunity for extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth.
According to HRW, the administration failed to take concrete steps against the culture of impunity in the country. Despite a decrease in the number of killings since the Arroyo's presidency, extrajudicial killings of journalists and activists continue.
The year 2013 saw a "major surge in killings of journalists" in the country, with 12 reported cases, according to the group. This put the total number of journalists killed during the Aquino administration to 26. Of this, only 6 cases have arrested suspects.
"The Philippines remains a risky place to be an outspoken activist or muckraking journalist,” HRW Asia Advocacy director John Sifton said. “People taking on powerful local interests all too frequently make the news as victims, and those responsible for killings are almost never prosecuted.”
Armed Forces violations?
The organization also said that government forces together with armed groups such as the New People's Army (NPA) have been implicated in human rights violations in the context of armed conflicts. (READ: Rights groups: Torture persists under PNoy)
“President Obama should make clear that US assistance to the Philippine military is linked to abusive personnel being held to account,” Sifton said. “A strong US position on rights can only strengthen Aquino’s hand in combating abuses," he added.
Since 2008, the US Congress has placed conditions on giving aid to the Philippine military. In exchange for portions of US funding, the Philippine government needed to improve its record on solving these cases.
In 2009, around 236 labor and human rights groups called for the US Congress to review the country's condition as part of the US' Generalized Systems of Preferences, which aids economic growth in developing countries. As of July 2013, the petition filed by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is still under review. - Rappler.com