MANILA, Philippines – In 2015, Emerito Samarca was found dead inside a classroom in Barangay Diatagon in Surigao del Sur. When people discovered his body, they found him hogtied and stabbed to death.
Samarca, along with Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, were leaders of the Lumad, one of the indigenous groups in the Philippines. Armed groups killed all 3.
According to the 2016 report of human rights group Amnesty International (AI), these killings are just a few of the many cases of human rights violations in the Philippines.
They blamed “a climate of impunity for human rights violations” for the continued “torture and ill-treatment by police,” and noted the absence of laws criminalizing torture and enforced disappearances.
Although the Senate conducted two hearings on police torture in January and December 2015, AI said reports of police perpetrating violations continued. (READ: Police torture ‘rife, routine’ in PH – Amnesty report)
It was also in December 2015 when Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, filed Senate Bill No. 3032, which seeks to establish a national preventive mechanism (NPM).
NPMs regularly monitor prisons and other detention facilities and make recommendations to improve the lives of inmates.
Aside from the torture and disappearances, the report also included the lack of progress with the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
While the RH Law was passed, the Supreme Court passed a temporary restraining order, which prohibited the Department of Health (DOH) from distributing and selling implants.
Another complication arose when the Senate’s approved budget showed the DOH’s P1-billion allocation for RH was removed. (READ: What happened to the 2016 budget for contraceptives?)
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said this was a violation of women’s right to access reproductive health services.
Although the Philippines enshrined the protection of human rights in the Constitution and has laws in place against several forms of abuse, there have been no convictions.
The mass displacement of people in regions affected by war was the focus of the global human rights crisis, which AI said was the worst since the World War II.
AI reported violations against both refugees and those left behind in their war-torn countries.
They condemned the criminalization of asylum-seekers and other “state actions that amounted to denial of access to an asylum process.”
Europe continues to struggle under the influx of refugees. In 2015, Germany alone took in 1.1 million refugees.
Leaders have also warned against opening the borders to more refugees, expressing anxiety over the threat of extremist groups making their way past borders. This was only heightened after the attacks in Paris in November 2015.
Because of the scale of the violations, AI Secretary General Salil Shetty questioned the capability of the current international system in dealing with crises.
He asked, “Is the international system of law and institutions adequate for the urgent task of protecting human rights?”
Shetty added that any further progress in human rights will not be the result of “the benevolence of states,” but would have to be done in partnership with human rights defenders (HRD) and advocates. (READ: PH 2nd highest in killings of human rights defenders – watchdog)
To emphasize the need to protect HRDs, Shetty said: “In such a situation, protecting and strengthening systems of human rights and civilian protection cannot be seen as optional. It is literally a matter of life and death.” – Rappler.com
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