Watchdog: Little progress in human rights in PH

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Human Rights Watch says Aquino government hasn't fulfilled promises of reform

MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino administration has made “very little” progress in curtailing violations of human rights, international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, January 23.

“Extrajudicial killings and torture of leftist activists, alleged communist rebels, and accused criminals continue, but the government has failed to acknowledge and address involvement in these crimes by the security forces and local officials,” the HRW said in a statement Monday.

The group said the current administration hasn’t fulfilled its promises of reform. “His administration will ultimately be measured by what it achieves, not by his stated intentions,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW.

The country report summary, part of the 676-page World Report 2012, said the Aquino government is “working overtime” to prevent new human rights cases and to solve old ones, but is still on the slow lane.

“[Despite] promises of reform, his administration has made little progress in addressing impunity,” the report stated.

8 issues

HRW cited 8 major issues they have monitored in the past year, and summarized the progress, or lack thereof, of the government.

The report cited the continued occurrence of politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances under the Aquino administration, with the group noting at least 7 extrajudicial killings and 3 enforced disappearances with “strong evidence of military involvement.”

This was despite a Supreme Court decision and a Commission on Human Rights report connecting military officers to the “disappearance” of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño, Manuel Merino, and Jonas Burgos.

HRW highlighted as an “unprecedented development” the issuance of an arrest warrant against retired army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and other officers in connection with the Cadapan-Empeño case.

“Despite this unprecedented development, unlawful killings continue and the government should do more to hold those responsible to account,” the press statements said.

Private armies

The report also criticized the government’s slow dismantling of “prviate armies.” HRW said that despite claims by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo of the government having dismantled almost half of private armies, there has been no proof to that.

“It beggars belief why two years after the Maguindanao massacre, Aquino still has not dismantled the country’s paramilitary forces,” Pearson said.

The rights group also noted the unfulfilled promise to revoke Executive Order 546, which, they noted, is being used by local politicians to justify their private armed groups.

The report also noted the involvement of military and police personnel in torture; the continued presence of death squads, in particular in Davao City; the continued conflict in the south; and the conflict with the New People’s Army.

In the case of the conflict with the NPA, HRW said the communist group has unlawfully killed and detained civilians and extorted taxes from people and businesses.

“NPA leaders have often sought to justify targeted killings by asserting that those killed had earlier been condemned by NPA-organized “people’s courts” for “crimes against the people,”” the HRW said.

Reproductive rights, OFWs

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the controversial issue on reproductive rights were also part of the HRW report.

It cited the pending Reproductive Health bill, saying that President Aquino “has remained publicly committed” to despite “vehement” opposition from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

The report also noted that the Philippines’ bans on sending workers to some countries with records of abuse against Filipino workers “have been largely ineffective.”

It also said that the country, despite being a key player in the negotiations for the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, “has yet to extend labor protections” locally.

The HRW’s World Report 2012, a report assessing progress on human rights in 2012 in more than 90 countries.

HRW is an independent global organization focused on defending and protecting human rights. It is headquartered in New York City, with offices around the world. –

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