EDITORIAL - Persistent accusations
(The Philippine Star) - March 20, 2015 - 12:00am

Martial law ended three decades ago, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to be hounded by accusations of human rights violations. Recently, complaints against the AFP were brought to the United Nations rapporteur on indigenous peoples by a group representing the Lumad community in Mindanao. The group said cases of rights violations perpetrated by the AFP would also be presented to the UN Human Rights Council and UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

The AFP dismissed the accusations as “baseless” and welcomed the case as a chance to explain its activities in indigenous communities. It’s not the first time that the AFP’s human rights record has been brought to the attention of the UN. In the previous administration, a special UN rapporteur had visited the Philippines and concluded that the AFP was “in denial” about extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations attributed to state forces. The AFP said the killings resulted from legitimate counterinsurgency operations. The UN rapporteur also condemned human rights violations committed by the New People’s Army.

While the AFP has not been accused of systematic human rights violations since the collapse of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the persistent accusations must be faced squarely so that necessary reforms can be implemented. Since the visit of the UN rapporteur, the AFP has softened its stance and investigated certain complaints. The AFP also launched a program to win hearts and minds at the community level.

The effort is a work in progress. Retired Army general Jovito Palparan, dubbed “the butcher” by militant groups and wanted for human rights atrocities, was widely believed to have been harbored by military elements before he was captured in Manila last year. Military officials insist that it’s a different AFP and reforms are underway. The case brought to the UN should intensify the AFP’s commitment to reforms.

AFP ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES HUMAN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL INDIGENOUS ISSUES JOVITO PALPARAN NEW PEOPLE PERMANENT FORUM RETIRED ARMY RIGHTS
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