MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino should fulfill his promises of going after military officers accused of serious human rights abuses, an international human rights organization said Thursday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a press statement, said the Aquino administration has failed to successfully prosecute a single case of extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance, including those committed during his presidency.
HRW said Aquino, in his inaugural speech on June 30, 2010, ordered the Justice Department to ensure "true and complete justice for all."
The group also quoted him as saying 5 months later that "the culture of silence, injustice and impunity that once reigned is now a thing of the past.”
Aquino reiterated his commitment in his 2011 State of the Nation Address, when he said “We are aware that the attainment of true justice does not end in the filing of cases, but in the conviction of criminals."
“President Aquino has not lived up to his promises to bring those responsible for serious abuses to justice,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Concrete measures – rather than more promises – are needed now.”
Her group cited various cases including the killing of activists Francisco Baldomero and Rene Quirante, as well as the 2006 disappearance of two university students, Karen Cadapan and Sherlyn Empeno, that have yet to be resolved.
Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, has evaded arrest over the Cadapan and Empeno case.
HRW claimed it has information stating that military and business interests are protecting Palparan.
"Under President Macapagal-Arroyo, government security forces conducted a massive campaign targeting groups deemed to be Communist Party fronts and their alleged members and supporters. The number of killings and disappearances implicating the military has gone down under the Aquino administration, but they continue," the rights group said.
It added that the Philippines' human rights record was looked into at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva during its Universal Periodic Review in May.
"Several countries – including the United States, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Holy See – raised alarm over the continuing killings, enforced disappearances, and torture. During the sessions, several countries urged the Aquino administration to end impunity for these abuses," HRW said.
The group said Aquino must launch comprehensive reforms to end impunity for serious abuses.
"He should order the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate police and military personnel, including at the command level, who have been implicated in killings," the group said.
"He should also make clear to the police that they are responsible for vigorously pursuing any crimes committed by government officials and police officers and that if they do not, they will become the target of a criminal investigation. He should order the military to cooperate with civilian authorities investigating military abuses or themselves face sanctions. And he should take immediate steps to ensure that the country’s witness protection program is independent, accessible, and properly funded," it added.
"The government needs to move beyond simply identifying suspects and obtaining warrants to actually apprehending the suspects and putting them on trial," Pearson said.