Palace justifies slow pace in human rights cases

Published by rudy Date posted on March 4, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang justified the slow pace of the judiciary in resolving cases involving human rights violations, saying this was deliberate to ensure that only the guilty are punished.

In a statement issued yesterday by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the Palace reiterated that the United States’ State Department report on human rights in the Philippines was generally fair.

However, Ermita noted that the report mentioned a number of specific cases of alleged human rights violations that have yet to be resolved by Philippine authorities.

Ermita said that while the report indicated that the cases were at various stages of resolution, it criticized the government for moving slowly on these cases.

“We beg to disagree, and strongly at that. We adhere to the age-old dictum that we would rather see 99 guilty people go free than to have one person wrongfully put in jail,” Ermita said.

He pointed out that a number of the statistics and figures raised in the report were sourced from non-government organizations, which he said have to be verified.

The Philippine government has long questioned data coming from the NGOs, particularly the militant human rights watchdog Karapatan.

During the visit of the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston two years ago, he also cited the cases and figures of human rights violations and alleged extrajudicial killings from Karapatan, which the government has debunked and claimed that a lot of the cases did not exist.

“These, as well as other concerns that were raised by the report, will be farmed out by the Presidential Human Rights Committee to the concerned executive bodies for their comments and updates,” he added.

However, even though the data of the NGOs were questioned, Ermita noted that the State Department acknowledged that the government was responsive to and cooperating with these organizations.

Ermita also welcomed the State Department’s “tacit identification” of non-state actors as violators of human rights.

He said that this has “taken a great heat off the backs of law enforcement authorities who constantly find themselves battling insurgency, criminality, terrorism and the like, with one of their hands tied at their backs because of their obligations to human rights principles.” — Marvin Sy, Philippine Star

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