Obama urged to confront PNoy on killings

Human Rights Watch urges US President Barack Obama to press President Aquino on extrajudicial killings.

'PRESS PNOY.' Human Rights Watch urges US President Barack Obama to press President Aquino about human rights abuses. File photo from the ASEAN-US Leaders meeting in 2010 by Jay Morales, Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Talk about the economy, Scarborough Shoal and development but don’t forget human rights. 

The New York-based Human Rights Watch called on US President Barack Obama to press President Benigno Aquino III on human rights abuses during their Oval Office meeting on Friday, June 8.

Aquino is on a 3-day visit to the US on Obama’s invitation.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director John Sifton said Obama should ask Aquino to hold into account security and paramilitary forces implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.

“Obama needs to speak frankly with Aquino about addressing Philippine security forces’ abusive record,” said Sifton. “Accountability for abuses is not only a matter of justice for victims, but vital for the Philippines’ future as a rights-respecting democracy.” 

The rights group said US military expansion in Asia must not stop Obama from raising human rights concerns with Aquino.

Obama is expected to discuss with Aquino cooperation in the Asia Pacific as the US refocuses its attention to the area. 

Palparan and PNoy’s campaign promise

Human Rights Watch also reminded Aquino of his campaign promise to rescind an executive order allowing the creation of private armies.

“But he has backtracked and has spoken about allowing paramilitary forces to provide security for private corporations, including mining companies.”

The group also cited the case of retired Major Gen Jovito Palparan, who was indicted last year in connection with the abduction of UP students Sheryln Cadapan and Karen Empeño. He remains at large, allegedly with the help of former colleagues in the military. (Watch the Rappler profile below.)

Human Rights Watch said only 7 cases of extrajudicial killings have been successfully prosecuted in the last decade, none under the Aquino administration.

Its report in July 2011 titled “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain” documented 10 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under Aquino’s watch. Human Rights Watch said there is strong evidence of military involvement.

The group outlined the following problems:

  • Police investigations remain inadequate, with investigators seldom visiting crime scenes
  • Evidence of military involvement is routinely not pursued
  • Investigations stop after one suspect is identified
  • Arrest warrants are frequently not executed
  • Witnesses are not adequately protected

 

“Rather than arguing, making promises and offering excuses, President Aquino should focus on ending and prosecuting extrajudicial executions …. He should let actions do the talking,” said Sifton.

US aid withheld

Human Rights Watch also noted that the US has withheld $2 million to $3 million a year in aid to the Philippines until it takes effective steps to prosecute perpetrators of abuses.

The State Department is in charge of certifying if the Philippines has met the conditions or not.

Aquino is set to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his trip, attending a luncheon on her invitation.

It remains to be seen whether or not Clinton will discuss human rights issues with the Philippine President. – Rappler.com