(New York) - The Philippines should take meaningful steps to protect human rights and promote accountability at home as a new member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to President Benigno Aquino, III released today. Human Rights Watch called on the Aquino administration to investigate and prosecute officials, military personnel, and police officers implicated in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other serious rights violations in the Philippines.

"The Philippines should use its membership in the Human Rights Council to end abuses around the globe, but it should also address the persistent abuses at home," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This means tenaciously prosecuting all those responsible for extrajudicial killings and ‘disappearances,' regardless of rank or title."

Human Rights Watch urged the Aquino administration to strengthen protections for the sexual and reproductive rights of all its citizens. And as a country that has been a leader in advocating for the protection of its workers abroad, it should strengthen cooperation with other labor-sending countries and commit to protecting the rights of domestic workers at home and abroad.

When it presented its candidacy to the Human Rights Council, the Philippines pledged to uphold the highest standards to promote and protect human rights. The president should take these important steps to live up to these standards and his past promises to promote justice and human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

"President Aquino has made some bold promises, but stronger action is urgently needed to end political killings, promote sexual and reproductive rights, and protect Filipino migrant workers," Pearson said. "The Philippines should consider its Human Rights Council membership an opportunity to strengthen its credentials in this area at home and abroad."