‘Philippines needs to do more to stop rights abuse’By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine government may have taken steps to protect human rights in the country, but it needs to step up its game.
This was the emerging view among local and international groups, including the European Union (EU), on the human rights situation in the Philippines, as the country undergoes a second round of a universal periodic review before the United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday.
“While significant progress has been made in the area of human rights, more needs to be done to effectively tackle shortcomings, notably in the areas of impunity, extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,” EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said Monday.
Ledoux said the country’s justice system needed to be strengthened to improve the human rights situation, and the judicial process must be completed to the end.
“It is my conviction that in order to deter human rights abuses, a strong, effective, enforceable and accessible justice system is crucial. If justice is done by means of a thorough and fair process and followed by the conviction of criminals, this will send a strong signal to potential perpetrators that they will be punished for their crimes,” he said.
Ledoux spoke at a meeting between EU ambassadors and members of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) who gave an update on an EU-funded project to raise awareness on torture and violence against women and children.
Under the project, the TDFP documented numerous cases of torture and conducted seminars on human rights among farmers and the urban poor to teach them how to document cases of torture, among other atrocities.
While Ledoux pointed out that the Philippine justice system faced perennial problems, such as lack of resources and a dearth of judges, he also noted that the Philippine government had made important efforts to tackle economic, social and cultural rights.
The government, he said, has worked to reduce poverty by increasing the budget for education, health and social security.
International groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International (AI) also found lacking the government’s action against human rights violators, even as they noted the progress it has made in terms of ratifying international conventions and passing as antitorture law, among other things.
Ledoux acknowledged as well the Philippines’ ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.
But Sister Cres Lucero of the TFDP said that the group had seen no clear policy on human rights from the Aquino administration.
“The government has been focused on ending corruption to the detriment of addressing impunity,” Lucero said, adding that not one case of extrajudicial killing has been addressed.
AI Philippine director Aurora Parong similarly lamented the government’s slow progress in holding perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable to the point that they have no fear of prosecution and punishment.
In an earlier forum at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Max de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates scored the weak exercise of command responsibility in the country and the shift to command conspiracy where officers and the rank and file collaborate to cover up human rights violations. Police and military forces continue to be the top human rights violators, he said.
CHR Chair Loretta Rosales has acknowledged that impunity remains a “glaring problem.” She said that while the Aquino administration had made a “serious effort” to correct human rights violations resulting in fewer enforced disappearances, there remained the problem of “voluntary disappearances” among people accused of crimes.