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We want to see soldiers jailed – Human Rights Watch

By CARMELA FONBUENA

Aquino reiterates in SONA his commitment to address extra-judicial killings

MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) reiterated his commitment to address the problem of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Philippines. He gave instructions to the Department of Justice to prioritize EJK cases along with tax evasion, drug trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, and graft and corruption.

On July 19, a week before the SONA, the New York-based international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) declared dissatisfaction with the Aquino administration for its failure to be more “proactive” in solving killings of political activists.

HRW said they want to see someone in the Armed Forces of the Philippines jailed for human rights abuse.

“The constructive engagement with human rights group is definitely a step in the right direction. But it is merely a step. What we need to see is investigation and prosecutions of soldiers and military officials who are implicated in these abuses,” said HRW Asia Division researcher Jessica Evans, who came to Manila to present the HRW report on extrajudicial killings.

Evans said President Aquino should encourage military officers and soldiers who have witnessed abuses to come forward and testify against their colleagues in the military.

“Aquino should assure them that they would be provided with witness protection and police investigators who continue to turn a blind eye to these abuses, they themselves will be sanctioned,” she said.

A soldier’s confession

The 96-page report, “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain: Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines” has three main findings:

1.) Extrajudicial killings persist under President Aquino’s administration

2.) Police investigation continues to stall the minute the trail of evidence leads to the military barracks

3.) The underlying causes of extrajudicial killings within the military have not been adequately addressed

“The Philippines still has a long way to go,” said HRW deputy director for Asia, Elaine Pearson. “Impunity has not been effectively tackled by successive administrations. We see the same kind of mentality within the Armed Forces which is really the main barrier to effectively combating impunity,” she said.

HRW said they talked to a former soldier, who confessed to the military’s involvement in extrajudicial killings. “He said he was specifically trained to commit killings in a way that it would look to investigators and the general public like the killing had been committed by the communist New People’s Army. He said he was told to do this by using a .45 caliber pistol and wearing a bonnet, which was thought to be favored by the Sparrow Unit of the NPA,” narrated Evans.

“Still, the military on the ground fails to distinguish between Leftist activists and armed members of the communist NPA. Still, we don’t have transparent internal investigation within the military. Still, military’s first response to allegation of human rights abuses is absolute denial,” added Evans.

Better than GMA but…

Pearson acknowledged the improvement in the Aquino government’s “level of engagement with human rights workers.”

She said this was not seen in the previous Arroyo administration. But it is not enough, she said.

“What we would like to see now are concrete actions to see government is serious about honoring its human rights commitment…. Beyond words, we need concrete actions.

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We believe that President Aquino should really work towards leaving a legacy of a professional and accountable military as his commitment under this administration,” Pearson said.

The number of violations is also down in the Aquino administration, according to human rights lawyer Jose Diokno.

“But the real issue is: Are the structures that generate human rights violations still there? For me, they are still there. The Aquino administration must

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there are policies and practices that they have to address that cause a lot of human rights violations,” said Diokno, who also came to the HRW press conference.

One thing President Aquino can do, Diokno said, is to issue an order that will require all promotions of the military and police officers to pass through the Commission on Human Rights. He said this helped during the administration of President Fidel Ramos.

“He’s got so many things on his plate. But we’re hoping this will grab his attention,” he said.

Recommendations

HRW also had three main recommendations to the Aquino administration:

1.) Issue a directive from senior levels of government that orders the military to stop targeting civilians, stop the blanket denials of military involvement in all cases of extrajudicial killings, and stop labeling Leftist groups as simply fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines.

2.) For President Aquino to order the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of investigation to take all necessary steps to investigate and prosecute those responsible in each of these cases of EJK. The military also needs to conduct transparent internal investigation and discipline officers and soldiers responsible, including those liable under the principle of command responsibility.

3.) For credible investigation to happen, it’s necessary to start sanctioning those officers that are failing in their duty to conduct rigorous investigation and prosecution.

“It’s all very well and good to have some of these recommendations in glossy training brochures but it’s not just about human rights training. It’s about ensuring that it is really part of the way that military conducts its operations in the field,” Pearson said.—Newsbreak

 

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  1. Extra-judicial killing means what it says, killing of people outside the court directed order to kill, which highlights the fact that judiciary has reached a level of mistrust that no one believes in it anymore and they would simply put the law into their hands because it is swift “justice”. If injustice was committed in the process (totally innocent people are involved) the perpetrators are emboldened to act in the manner that they did, because even if they are caught, courts can be bought to let them off the hook. Whichever way you look at it, the malaise is a product of a dysfunctional court system.

  2. In due time perhaps all these things would be addressed. Haste makes waste. At the speed you want things to happen, we might end up with only 10 policemen and 10 soldiers. That would even be more disastrous.

  3. desensitizerman says:

    check the atrocities of npa and abu sayaff, kawawa naman ang sundalo. nayu human rights na, napapatay pa. be fair, try to reach out those people in the mountain.

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