Report: extrajudicial killings, impunity continue under Aquino

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 January) — The Aquino administration has made “little progress in addressing impunity” and failed to put a stop to the killings of leftist activists and petty criminals, a New York-based human rights monitor on Sunday said.

In World Report 2012, which tackles the human rights record of governments around the world, Human Rights Watch said the government has failed to acknowledge and address involvement by the security forces and local officials “despite promises for reforms.”

“Several key institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, remain weak and
the military and police still commit human rights violations with impunity,” the report said.

The group noted that President Benigno S. Aquino III said the government is “working overtime to prevent new cases of human rights violations and to resolve previous cases, and has pleaded for patience.”

Human Rights Watch however said it has documented at least seven extrajudicial killings and three enforced disappearances implicating the military since Aquino took office in June 2010.

It added the government has “largely failed” to prosecute military personnel suspected in the killings of journalists, activists and outspoken clergy during the past administration “even though evidence exists in many cases.”

“Only seven cases of extrajudicial killings from the past decade have been successfully prosecuted, none of which were in 2011 or involved active duty military personnel,” the group said.

The report also cited the cases of four activists – Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeno, Manuel Merino and Jonas Burgos – whose “disappearance” in 2006 and 2007 was blamed on the military.

Retired Army general Jovito Palparan Jr. and other military personnel have been charged in connection to these cases. But Palparan has gone into hiding since. The government has put up a bounty for information leading to his capture.

Militant groups have called Palparan a “berdugo” (butcher) for his alleged involvement in many extrajudicial killings involving activists.

Extrajudicial killings by so-called death squads targeting suspected petty criminals and street children particularly in Davao and Tagum cities were likewise mentioned in the country report.

“Aquino’s administration has not acted to dismantle such groups, end local anti-crime campaigns that promote or encourage unlawful use of force, or prosecute government officials complicit in such activities. At this writing the National Commission on Human Rights had still not reported on the outcome of multi-agency task force investigations into summary killings in Davao City in 2009,” it said.

Human Rights Watch further observed that Aquino still defends the use of “poorly trained and abusive paramilitary forces” in the fights against rebel groups. It cited Aquino’s decision to deploy additional militiamen to provide security to mining companies.

The President’s decision came in the wake of the attack by New People’s Army rebels on three mining companies in Surigao del Norte.

The presence of private armies in Mindanao “which have long been responsible for serious abuses” also figured in the report. It said Interior and Local Government Secretary has claimed the government has dismantled almost half of the private armies in the island but has not presented any evidence.

The report cited that Executive Order 546 issued by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the justification for the flow of firearms to the arsenal of local officials, has not been revoked. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)