Noy hit over failure to resolve human rights cases
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Rights advocates are disappointed over the government’s apparent failure to improve the country’s human rights situation, especially now that the end of President Aquino’s term is nearing.

In its World 2016 Report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said there has been little accountability for the killings of indigenous leaders, activists and journalists, and other serious abuses committed under the present administration.

The report contained reviews of human rights practices in more than 90 countries including the Philippines.

Phelim Kine, HRW Asia deputy director, said Aquino failed to deliver a rights-respecting Philippines, which he promised when he first assumed the presidency.

While the number of serious violations has declined during the Aquino administration, the continuous killings of activists and the lack of successful prosecutions mean there’s nothing to prevent an upsurge of abuses in the future.

In the first eight months of 2015, military and paramilitary groups have allegedly killed more than a dozen tribal leaders and community members, according to local rights groups.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said military operations in Mindanao’s tribal communities have displaced at least 243,000 individuals.

A majority of the victims are suffering from inadequate food, shelter and health care, the report said.

The group said there were nine journalists killed in 2015 – three of the murders occurred within 10 days in August.

Only one suspect was arrested.

“Killing of alleged petty criminals, drug dealers and other victims by ‘death squads’ or contract killers in several cities remains unabated. In some cases, the killings were publicly encouraged by local officials.”

Children all over the country are at risk of becoming victims of human-rights abuses, the HRW said.

Another HRW report released in September last year said in small-scale mining communities, children are exposed to hazardous work conditions.

It said children work either underground or underwater in search for gold and process ore using mercury, a toxic chemical.

The report said armed conflict prevents children from attending classes and paramilitary groups raid schools, in one instance killing a school official.

“Authorities rounded up street dwellers in November to clear the capital of eyesores for the holding of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit,” the group said.

“While Aquino’s administration has a mixed record on rights issues, he has failed to institute reforms that could ensure a lasting and positive human rights legacy,” Kine said.

He said the Philippines’ next president must be prepared to tackle deep-seated impunity for abuses by state security forces and the corrupt and politicized criminal justice system.

CHR defends Noy

The Commission on Human Rights defended Aquino over reports that he failed to address right serious abuses in his six-year presidency.    

CHR spokesman Banuar Falcon refuted HRW’s claim that Aquino failed to achieve his goal to improve human rights, noting the President has done something on the legal framework when he was elected in 2010.

Falcon said Aquino implemented the Anti-torture Act of 2010, the anti-enforced disappearance law and the human rights claims board.

“There has been significant development in terms of the legal framework of the President, but I cannot tell on the overall because I don’t have the statistics with me,” Falcon told The STAR.

He said the overall human rights violation cases filed before them have decreased significantly as compared to the previous administrations.

He attributed the decline to the “improved promotional features of the CHR” that raised public awareness.

Falcon said he respects the reports of the HRW.

Meanwhile, victims of human rights abuses in Northern Luzon were disappointed over the cancellation of the on-site investigation of the House’s human rights committee in Baguio City.

The on-site hearing, set yesterday and today, was supposed to discuss in aid of legislation human rights cases in the region that were committed under the present administration.  – With Robertzon Ramirez, Artemio Dumlao


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