Climate of impunity still hovers in PH, says human rights monitor

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 January) – The failure to end impunity has continued to belie the Philippine government’s avowed commitment to human rights, a human rights group said today in its World Report 2014.

In the report, the Human Rights Watch cited the “surge of killings of journalists with little accountability” reflected the tenuous nature of human rights protection in the Philippines.

The New York-based monitor said 12 journalists were killed in 2013. It said this brought the total number of Filipino journalists and media workers to 26 since President Benigno S. Aquino took office in June 30, 2010.

“In only six of those 26 cases have police arrested suspects,” it noted, adding that in May last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists designated the Philippines as the third “most dangerous country” in the world for journalists, after Iraq and Somalia.

The government’s failure to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of journalists highlighted the climate of impunity for rights abusers in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said.

“In the only two cases in which the authorities have secured convictions for serious rights abuses – the killings of radio commentator and environmentalist Gerry Ortega on January 24, 2011, and journalist Rowell Endrinal on February 11, 2004 – the masterminds of those crimes remained at large,” the group added.

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights, in a statement said “the body count of Filipino journalists speaks volumes for the wide gap between the Aquino government’s rhetoric in addressing rights problems and the reality on the ground.”

Kine recalled that the government formed a so-called “superbody” in 2012 to expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases of extrajudicial killings.

He, however, said the body remained inactive during much of 2013 even as new cases were reported by domestic human rights groups.

“The Aquino administration has said all the right things about ending abuses in the Philippines, but what’s missing is the political will to translate those promises into action,” he said.

But the report also cited the surrender of Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. to a Manila court.

Baliaga is a prime suspect in the celebrated case of activist Jonas Burgos, who was allegedly abducted by soldiers in April 2007 on orders of fugitive retired General Jovito Palparan.

The Human Rights Watch report covers human rights practices in over 90 countries. (MindaNews)