Human rights in PH: An appraisal

On the third anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre on November 23rd, we might as well remember all those who perished in the Philippines, as the continued human rights violations goes on unabated.

Five months ago, on May 29 this year, the Philippine government’s human rights record came under scrutiny by member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

While the Philippine government paints a picture of an improved human rights situation in the country, Philippine human rights groups are saying otherwise.

The Philippine UPR Watch, a network of human rights, faith-based and people’s organizations engaging in the Universal Periodic Review process of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said that “despite government human rights rhetoric, extrajudicial killings continue unabated and abject poverty has been increasingly pronounced since the last review cycle of the Philippines in 2008.”

Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, co-head of the delegation and general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said that the alternative reports they submitted to the UNHRC outlined the continuing violations of the political, civil, and socio-economic rights and the non-compliance of the GPH to its rights treaty obligations.

“It has been four years since the first UPR on the Philippines and the human rights situation in the country manifests no real improvement. The climate and culture of impunity still reign. The whole world knows of the failure of the  government to bring to justice human rights violators like Gen. Jovito Palparan and of the horrendous, less than 1 percent conviction rate of perpetrators of political killings on top of the snail-paced justice system.”

“These are not things the Philippine government nor the Filipino-American community here in the United States can be proud of before the international community,” Reyes commented.

If we will comment on the statement of Army General Bautista that “ the likes of Palparan is an aberration in the army and is therefore an exception,” we should take it as we take a grain of salt.

The human rights group also chided the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its recent statements that its troops have not committed rights abuses in the past four months.

But such declarations are farthest from the truth as, on the ground, the horrid human rights situation remains, with such impunity, as there have been 76 extrajudicial killings and hundreds of rights violations perpetrated by the AFP, its paramilitary units and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

As of now, there are still more than 400 political detainees in different kinds of jails in the Philippines. Actually the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009 stands out as a symbol of violations of human rights in the Philippines and the injustice and impunity in our country.

We might as well quote a former vice president of the Philippines, when he was ambushed and escaped an ambush try, when he asked a police general who was killed later: “What is happening to our country, General?”

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