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MANILA, Philippines -- As the Philippines underwent the Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch challenged President Benigno Aquino III to “make a public commitment that breaking impunity … is a top priority.”
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Aquino can do this “by adopting measures that will ensure that military personnel and police who have so far gotten away with murder, torture and disappearances will be punished under his watch.”
“It is not enough for the Philippines to merely acknowledge concerns about continuing abuses and impunity raised by UN member states,” Pearson said. “The Aquino administration needs to implement enforceable and time-bound measures to end abuses and ensure that those who commit them are prosecuted.”
While several countries acknowledged the Philippines’ efforts to improve human rights, a number also noted its dismal record in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances and called on the government to step up efforts to arrest violators like retired general Jovito Palparan, who remains at large despite a standing warrant of arrest for the abduction of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
HRW urged the Aquino administration to heed the recommendations of other countries to end impunity and dismantle militias and private armies, which are blamed for many human rights abuses.
At the very least, the watchdog group said, “it should at least exercise full control and take full accountability for their actions that violate human rights, as recommended by the United States.”
“The government needs to undertake a major and thorough reform of the country’s broken criminal justice system, as many have states recommended,” Pearson said. “It would be tragic to return to Geneva four years from now for the next UPR and see that nothing significant has changed.”