Murder of Pinoy journalists continues, rights group says

Posted at 01/21/14 10:45 PM

MANILA – The Aquino administration has said all the right things about ending abuses in the country, but lacks political will to translate those promises into action, a human rights group said Tuesday.

In its World Report 2014, Human Rights Watch said the Philippine government failed to match its rhetoric in support of human rights in 2013 with meaningful action to end impunity for extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances.

Human Rights Watch, in a statement, said the tenuous nature of human rights protections in the Philippines is reflected in the surge of killings of journalists with little accountability.

"Twelve journalists were killed in 2013, bringing the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers killed to 26 since President Benigno Aquino III took office in June 2010. In only six of those 24 cases have police arrested suspects," according to the statement.

In May, the Committee to Protect Journalists designated the Philippines as the third “most dangerous country” in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Somalia.

“The body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground,” Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

The government’s failure to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of journalists highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said. In the only two cases in which the authorities have secured convictions for serious rights abuses – the killings of radio commentator and environmentalist Gerry Ortega on January 24, 2011, and journalist Rowell Endrinal on February 11, 2004 – the masterminds of those crimes remain at large.

It however, noted the government's progress in one of the country’s most emblematic cases of impunity.

In October, Philippine Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr., a prime suspect in the enforced disappearance of farmer rights activist Jonas Burgos, surrendered to a Manila court for his alleged role in the April 2007 abduction.