Justice gap stirs local rights abuses

Published by rudy Date posted on May 28, 2010

The Philippines is facing a huge justice gap that perpetuates human-rights abuses especially on women and children, a report from a London-based international human rights organization showed.

Based on the 2010 Amnesty International (AI) Report of the State of the World’s Human Rights that documents human-rights abuses in 159 countries, the Philippines is one of the 81 countries worldwide that is yet to sign up with the International Criminal Court and one of the 111 countries where people are tortured or otherwise ill-treated at the least.

Moreover, according to the report, the Philippines is also one of the 96 countries where freedom of expression is restricted and one of the 61 states where human-rights offenders enjoy impunity for torture.

The AI report disclosed that Manila’s record is evidenced by its military that has failed to differentiate between communist New People’s Army fighters and civilian activists and human-rights defenders in rural areas because of the government’s self-imposed 2010 deadline to end the communist insurgency.

“Military subjected civilians to secret detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Both sides carried out politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances,” the report said.

The situation, it added, then led to hundreds of thousands displaced persons, including indigenous peoples who suffered both as a result of the conflict and from forced evictions from their lands in the interest of extraction industries.

Aurora Parong, Section director of Amnesty International Philippines, noted that the government should start addressing the human-rights violations cited by the AI report by revoking Executive Order (EO) 546, which authorized the Philippine National Police to deputize the barangay tanods (village watchmen) as force multipliers in the implementation of the peace and order plan in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ fight against insurgency and terrorism.

EO 546 was blamed for the proliferation of private militias and loose firearms in Southern Mindanao, particularly in Maguindanao province, where 57 civilians, including 30 journalists, were massacred on November 23, 2009.

Witnesses to the mass murder have pointed to Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. of Maguindanao’s Datu Unsay town as the mastermind of the mass killing, which was meant to neutralize his political rivals in the scheduled May 10 elections.

Until the massacre, the Ampatuans of Maguindanao were political allies of the Arroyo administration, whose political party booted the Ampatuans out in the aftermath of the slaughter.

More than 100 suspects have been charged in connection with the Maguindanao murders.

“EO 546 led to the worst election-related violence [Maguindanao massacre] in our history and yet justice remains slow,” Parong pointed out during the launch of the AI report on Thursday.

“The government should ensure that no one is above the law, and that everyone has access to justice for all human rights violations,” she said. –LLANESCA T. PANTI Reporter, Manila Times

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