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International rights group slams Phl HR record

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The government has failed to end impunity in unexplained killings, torture and enforced disappearances, according to an international rights group.

In its World Report 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the weak nature of human rights protection in the Philippines is reflected in the surge in killings of journalists with little accountability.

The report said that 12 journalists were killed last year, bringing the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed to 26 since President Aquino assumed office in June 2010.

Only in six of the 24 cases have police arrested suspects, the group said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the Philippines as the third “most dangerous country” in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Somalia.

“The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director of HRW.

The government’s failure to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of journalists highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines, it said.

The group noted that the masterminds in the killing of radio commentator Gerry Ortega in 2011 and journalist Rowell Endrinal in 2004 remain at large.

It added that the Philippine government did make progress in one of the country’s most celebrated cases of impunity when Philippine Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr., a prime suspect in the enforced disappearance of farmer rights activist Jonas Burgos, surrendered to a Manila court last year for his alleged role in the April 2007 abduction. 

According to the group, the fighting between Muslim rebels and government forces during the Zamboanga siege resulted in violations when rebels used the residents as human shields.

The government moved to address impunity with the creation in 2012 of a so-called “super body” to expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases of unexplained killings.

“The Aquino administration has said all the right things about ending abuses in the Philippines, but what’s missing is the political will to translate those promises into action,” Kine said.

AQUINO

GERRY ORTEGA

HARRY BALIAGA JR.

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

IRAQ AND SOMALIA

JONAS BURGOS

JOURNALISTS

PHELIM KINE

PHILIPPINE ARMY MAJ

PRESIDENT AQUINO

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