By Brianne Yantz
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
MANILA, Philippines – On July 18, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report entitled, “‘No Justice Just Adds to the Pain’: Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines.” According to HRW’s accompanying press release, the report concludes that the Philippine government has failed “to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings” since President Benigno Aquino III took office on June 30, 2010.
Such inaction has further fueled the military abuses that have taken place across the Philippines for the past decade, the 98-page report alleges. To support this claim, HRW presents strong evidence of military involvement in the seven killings and three enforced disappearances of leftist activists that have taken place during the Aquino administration.
Prior to his election, Aquino had campaigned against the violence that plagued the Philippines and pledged to bring it to an end. As Ishaan Tharoor, a blogger for TIME, reported “the culture of impunity and rank injustice that seemed to permeate some of the country’s state institutions were things Aquino vowed to stamp out.”
Yet, Tharoor has been highly critical of Aquino, stating that he “has made slow progress forging a dent in that ‘endemic’ corruption” as “court cases against known corrupt officials of the previous Arroyo administration have been only sparsely lodged.”
Tharoor further noted that the HRW report “adds to the chorus of criticism.”
The HRW report, however, presents the most overwhelming evidence of Aquino’s inaction. It details over 80 interviews, conducted across 11 provinces, with victims of abuses, their family members, witnesses, and police and military officials.
In one account from the report, Mary Dejos recalls finding the bodies of her husband and son after they were killed on February 27, 2011 in Davao del Sur province. Her husband Roderick “was lying with open wounds on his chest and neck” and her son, Rudyric, had “bullet wounds on his back with exit wounds on his upper chest.”
Dejos’ account is one of many, all of which indicate that Aquino has broken his promise to the people. Elaine Pearson, the deputy Asia director at HRW, illustrated how nothing has changed under the Aquino regime. According to Pearson, “activists are being gunned down in the street, while implicated soldiers walk free.”
Pearson went on to comment, “the Philippines can only bring an end to these horrific abuses if it is clear that anyone who orders or commits them will be jailed and their military careers will be over.”
For more information, please see:
The Philippine Star – Phl still fails to address extra judicial killings – July 21, 2011
BBC News – Philippines extrajudicial killings continue, says HRW – July 19, 2011
TIME – Extrajudicial Murders Are a Blot on Noynoy Aquino’s Year in Power in the Philippines – July 19, 2011
Human Rights Watch – Philippines: New Killings as Impunity Reigns – July 18, 2011