Philippines: Two Years Under Aquino, Abuses Go Unpunished No Successful Prosecutions of Security Forces for Killings, ‘Disappearances’

For Immediate Release

*** To view video:

Click here to download raw footage.

(New York, June 28, 2012) – President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines has not fulfilled his promises to hold accountable the security forces responsible for serious abuses since taking office two years ago, Human Rights Watch said today. The Aquino government has not successfully prosecuted a single case of extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance, including those committed during his presidency, Human Rights Watch said.

In his inaugural speech on June 30, 2010, Aquino gave “marching orders” to the Justice Department to “begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all.” Five months later, at an event to commemorate human rights, he said that, “The culture of silence, injustice and impunity that once reigned is now a thing of the past.” And during his 2011 State of the Nation Address, Aquino reiterated this commitment, saying, “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.”

Human Rights Watch today released a video, “Philippines: No Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” in which family members of the “disappeared” call on the president to live up to his promises of justice.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2011 report “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” documented 10 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances since Aquino took office. No one has been arrested in any of these cases, and the three “disappeared” people remain missing.

The Aquino administration has not taken the needed steps to bring recent cases of serious abuse to trial, Human Rights Watch said.

In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2010, President Aquino noted the case of Francisco Baldomero, an activist from Aklan province who was killed on July 5, 2010, as among those “on their way to being resolved.” An arrest warrant has been issued for Dindo Ancero in the case, but he has not been apprehended and the case was “archived” – put on hold – in January 2011.

An arrest warrant was issued but never served for one of two suspects in the killing of Rene Quirante, a left-wing activist who was beaten and shot by uniformed men on October 1, 2010, in Negros Oriental province. A relative of Quirante’s has alleged that the suspect has been seen in the company of soldiers. “Nothing is happening,” Quirante’s relative told Human Rights Watch in April. “We’re growing tired of waiting for justice.”

Human Rights Watch has monitored progress on cases of killings and enforced disappearances under the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. If progress has been made, it is often because of the perseverance and courage of family members, rather than aggressive action by police and prosecutors, Human Rights Watch said.

For instance, in the 2006 disappearance of two university students, Karen Cadapan and Sherlyn Empeno, family action was crucial in bringing the two soldiers to trial for their kidnapping and illegal detention. The trial for the two soldiers started in May. However, the men are not in civilian custody but are being held in a military camp. Two others implicated in the students’ disappearance, including retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, the commander in the area at the time, have evaded arrest. Human Rights Watch has received information that military and business interests are protecting General Palparan.

In the past decade, state security forces in the Philippines have been implicated in the torture, enforced disappearance, and killing of hundreds of leftist activists, journalists, and clergy. The communist New People’s Army and other insurgent groups have also been responsible for killings and other serious abuses. 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 Philippines’s human rights record was scrutinized 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.

Human Rights Watch has longstanding recommendations to Aquino to initiate the comprehensive reforms necessary 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. 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.

“As President Aquino himself pointed out, the conviction of those implicated in abuses is the true test of his commitment to his promise,” Pearson said. “So the government needs to move beyond simply identifying suspects and obtaining warrants to actually apprehending the suspects and putting them on trial.”

To watch the video, “Philippines: No Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” please visit:

To read the report “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2011/07/18/no-justice-just-adds-pain-0

To read the news release “Philippines: Military Leadership Should Act on Abuses,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/01/philippines-military-leadership-should-act-abuses

To read the news release “Philippines: Arrest Ex-General Accused of ‘Disappearances’,” please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/31/philippines-arrest-ex-general-accused-disappearances

For more information, please contact:
In Manila, Carlos Conde (English, Tagalog, Visayan): +63-917-545-5492 (mobile); [email protected]
In New York, Elaine Pearson (English): +1-212-216-1213; or +1-646-291-7169 (mobile); or [email protected]
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or [email protected]
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-7908-728-333 (mobile); or [email protected]

The ProPinoy Project

  • So the three main terror groups in the Philippines are Muslim extremists, Communist rebels and Government forces/police, the latter inclined to fight back on the same terms as the terrorists. “Heart of Darkness”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Philippine Human Rights Enforcers” . . . identical values sold down the river . . .

    I rather think the Justice Department here, and NBI in particular, are not very skilled, not very professional, and not chartered to do the right things. The slow and sloppy job being done getting evidence on the Ampatuans, Arroyo, and the empty files on Mr. Corona rather illustrate the problem. Is there a crime lab anywhere? A cadre of detectives? Or are they all out doing the bazillions of NBI clearances for the masses that government offices seem to demand. Talk about misplaced priorities. Thousands of people pushing meaningless paper around whilst criminals whistle off to Hong Kong to ride at Disneyland.

    Who gets fired for the Human Rights fiasco, going zero for ten? Not de Lima; she is being considered for the Supreme Court.

    I’d laugh, but it hurts too much . . .

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Aquino has not commended human rights abusers like GMA did Palparan in one of her SONAs. So that’s one big qualitative difference that HRW missed.  But the fact is prosecution of those who commit human rights violations against insurgents is still slow. That is undeniable. 

    Now the problem that confronts not only Aquino but all previous post martial law presidents is going after human rights violations against insurgents. Police brutality against suspects in common crimes is easy to address. But prosecuting human rights violations in a war on an enemy that knows no rules is a bit dicey for a president who is also commander in chief.  Note how candidates who promise to go all out against human rights violations change when they become president. It happens here and in other countries facing insurgencies and/or terrorism. In the US,  Obama the candidate vowed to close Guantanamo, stop renditions, and end torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques”. When Obama became president and commander in chief he kept Guantanamo open, went slow on torturers, and authorized targeted assassinations against suspected terrorists. As a matter of fact, the US has legalized torture, rendition, and other human rights violations like warrantless arrests and indefinite detention without recourse to habeas corpus against suspected terrorists. We need not go that far.Maybe for us the solution is for Congress to give the commission on human rights the wherewithal to carry out investigations, the authority and power to prosecute human rights violators and carry out arrests using its own police force, and a court devoted to human rights violations.  It might resolve the conflict between being president and commander in chief at the same time. Ideally there should be no conflict between those roles but the nature of the insurgencies makes it inevitable.    

    • UPnnGrd

       What about human rights abuses against Pinoys-of-Pilipinas  who are not insurgents?

      At least in this regards,  PresiNoynoy should do something…..   should he not?!

      Or at least PersiNoynou should appoint an anti-Crime CZAR  so the regular plain-vanilla killings of Pinoys-in-Pinas by men in motorcycles  can be reduced by 25% in 12 months and by 60% in 2 years.   Plus Malakanyang should accelerate the investigation of the Buendia avenue bombing of January 25 (Cory Aquino’s birthday).    And also accelerate the pace (by getting Ping Lacson to help, maybe??? )  so that Berdugo Palparan gets arrested.

      So many things to do… so many things to do.

    • GabbyD

      there’s a difference between policy for citizens (insurgents) and policy against non-citizens (foreign terrorists). its a reach to invoke US experience.

      if the US kills US-born terrorists, and prevent them from availing of the court system, that is the appropriate analogy.

      • Manuelbuencamino

        human rights are universal Gabby. 
        BTW, have you not read about the american citizen would be bomber or intel leaker who was treated exactly like an enemy combatant? I forget his name now or the circumstances of his case but it was a big issue for those against the conduct of the war on terror.

        • GabbyD

           i totally agree human rights are universal. so if you want to paint similarities between obama and aquino’s decisions on these matters, you have to make sure the analogy is appropriate.

          the philippines deals EXCLUSIVELY with citizen insurgents, while the us deals (the vast majority) with foreign terrorists.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            No the philippines does not deal eclusively with citizen insurgents. Like the US it also tracks down foreign terrorists. Does not the Philippines track JI members in Mindanao and years ago did it not bust one of those involved with 9/11 ? My analogy is appropriate.

          • UPnnGrd

            Would you extend the analogy to signature-approvals?

            So the highest authority in Pilipinas giving signature-approval to the  forced disappearances….    is it deLima (secretary of Justice)?

          • UPnnGrd

            Does the analogy —  Aquino is like Obama — extend to killings of Pilipinas media persons? It can’t be that the media killings in Pilipinas are approved somewhere inside Malakanyang.  I truly hope the media killings is a failure in Malakanyang (either ignored, or unable to solve yet) as opposed to sanctioned by Malakanyang in the guise of “…. against insurgents… kopya-kopya sa Merrr-KKaa.”

          • GabbyD

             JI ba ang pinaguusapan ng Human rights watch? No.

          • Manuelbuencamino

            Human Rights Watch ba ang nag sabi  “the philippines deals EXCLUSIVELY with citizen insurgents, while the us deals (the vast majority) with foreign terrorists” ? No.  

  • UPnnGrd

    And then, a detail. Pilipinas Statutes of LIMITAtIONS    will effectively make the murders another “…. kalimutan na lang”,  sobra ng matagal ang nakalipas na panahon.

    But PInoys-of-Pinas should not forget that Presidente Noynoy himself is saying “Kalimutan na lang!”     Malakanyang is saying “kalimutan na lang” to the question of  “Who masterminded the Ninoy Aquino assasination?”