HRW reactions/quotes on UN human rights review of Philippines

Regarding the Philippines government undergoing the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva today, here is a response from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Several countries acknowledged efforts by the Philippine government to improve human rights, for instance citing the ratification of treaties, the campaign against human trafficking, and trainings of security forces. Various countries also noted the Philippine government’s dismal record in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. Several countries called on the government to redouble its efforts to arrest alleged perpetrators such as retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who faces an arrest warrant in connection with the kidnapping of two activists in 2006.

Human Rights Watch said the Aquino administration should heed the recommendations by several countries at today’s UPR session in Geneva, among them to end impunity for extrajudicial killings and other serious abuses, and to dismantle paramilitaries and private militias, including by revoking Executive Order 546 that allows the formation of these groups. Should the government fail to dismantle these groups, it should at least exercise full control and take full accountability for their actions that violate human rights, as recommended by the United States.

“It is not enough for the Philippines to merely acknowledge concerns about continuing abuses and impunity raised by UN member states,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Aquino administration needs to implement enforceable and time-bound measures to end abuses and ensure that those who commit them are prosecuted.”

“President Benigno Aquino III should make a public commitment that breaking impunity in the Philippines is a top priority,” Pearson said. “He can do that by adopting measures that will ensure that military personnel and police who have so far gotten away with murder, torture and disappearances will be punished under his watch.”

“The government needs to undertake a major and thorough reform of the country’s broken criminal justice system, as many have states recommended,” Pearson said. “It would be tragic to return to Geneva four years from now for the next UPR and see that nothing significant has changed.”