Aquino's 'silence' on human rights adds 'insult to injury'

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III's silence on many pressing human rights problems in his 6th and final state of the nation address (SONA) "adds insult to injury to the many victims of the government’s failure to adequately grapple with those issues." 

This was according to former journalist Carlos Conde, in a dispatch he wrote as Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, a Washington-based non-governmental organization.

"Aquino barely touched on any of the serious human rights problems his administration has largely ignored since he took office in 2010," he wrote on Tuesday, July 28, a day after the President's SONA.

"More Filipinos will likely pay a heavy price for the failure to press for greater accountability for alleged abuses by the state security forces," he added.

Conde cited alleged human rights violations by security forces, slow investigations on these cases, and the lack of transparency in the prosecution of confirmed cases. 

Addressing extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture must be a priority in Aquino's last year in office, he said. Otherwise, he said the cost will be rising body count.

He challenges Aquino to go beyond "empty rhetorics" and stay true to his word during his presidential campaign. 

"Aquino won the 2010 election on a political platform that included explicit human rights commitments and a promise to tackle the lack of accountability for the military and police," he concluded. 

In a Thought Leaders piece he wrote for Rappler before the SONA, Conde acknowledged government’s "efforts to fix the broken criminal justice system...but the impunity of the Philippine security forces that Aquino promised to eliminate persists. (READ: Aquino's last chance on human rights)

He suggested: "Aquino’s final year in office gives him a last chance to undertake meaningful action to address these human rights abuses. He can start by cracking the whip on the Philippine National Police, particularly Task Force Usig, which is mandated to investigate extrajudicial killings, to improve its investigation and documentation capabilities and submit a regular – preferably monthly – progress report on the status of these cases."  Buena Bernal/Rappler.com