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Presidential bets urged to reveal human rights platform

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe, former Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago are urged to make public commitments to protect human rights if and when they are elected president. File photos

MANILA, Philippines - A human rights group on Monday challenged the presidential aspirants to reveal their clear human rights platform if ever they get elected in the May 2016 elections.

Amnesty International (AI) Philippines sent letters to the presidential bets - Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago - asking them to respond to its five-point human rights agenda:

  1. End extrajudicial executions, unlawful arrests, secret detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment and prevent the use of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to justify human rights violations
  2. Establish control and accountability over the military, police and other state-sponsored forces and ensure witness protection
  3. Ensure safe and voluntary return of the displaced and embed human rights protection in the peace process
  4. Make human rights a priority integrated across government bodies
  5. Ratify treaties on human rights and international humanitarian law

"While most issues were tackled by previous administrations, we believe that in order to sustain any progress achieved in critical areas, an incoming strong leadership with clear human rights agenda is essential," AI Philippines Chair Ritz Lee Santos III said.

Santos noted that the human rights organization is yet to receive a response from the offices of presidential candidates regarding their platforms on the issue.

AI Philippines revealed its "dismal rating" on the approach of the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III to ending extrajudicial executions, unlawful arrests, secret detention, enforced disappearances and torture.

READ: Human rights sidelined in presidential race: Amnesty

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Santos pointed out that Aquino failed to show his commitment to ending enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

"There is also little progress in establishing accountability over the military, police and other state forces for human rights violations. Not one perpetrator of torture had been punished," Santos said.

A few months ago, New York-based Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the alleged "death squad" links of Duterte.

"The long official tolerance of Duterte's advocacy of summary killings as effective crime-fighting strategy needs to stop," Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said.

Before officially announcing his presidential bid, Duterte has been going on speaking tours across the country endorsing the killing of criminal suspects as an effective crime control technique.

Duterte boasted of his city being among the safest cities in the world.

Meanwhile, Duterte's running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano defended the Davao City mayor, citing that he stands for order and not violence.

"Mayor Duterte symbolizes radical change. His leadership gives importance to the rights and interests of people, long-neglected by government," Cayetano said.

"Despite his self-confessed imperfections, Mayor Duterte's vision and achievements command respect and engender hope among a people longing for a better Philippines," the senator said.

RELATED: Int'l group wants probe into Duterte, 'death squad'

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