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Dispatches: President Aquino’s Unfulfilled Human Rights Promises

 

On Monday, Filipinos staged the biggest mass protest  in years against a widening official corruption scandal.

For many of those thousands of protesters, ending corruption was but one election promise that President Benigno Aquino, III has failed to deliver on.  He also vowed to end impunity for human rights violations, including the killings of activists and journalists.

Today, the International Day of the Disappeared, Filipino activists reminded Aquino of his commitment to bring perpetrators of enforced disappearances to justice. “It is obvious that the elimination of the practice of enforced disappearance will not end under the [Aquino] regime,” said Aya Santos of the group Desaparecidos, citing the 17 such disappearances that her group has documented since 2010. In 2012, Human Rights Watch produced this video report on several disappearance cases.

Other forms of human rights violations persist under Aquino. This week, the Court of Appeals ordered the release of security guard Rolly Panesa, who was arrested by the military in October 2012 on suspicion that he was a ranking leader in the communist New People’s Army. He alleges he was severely tortured by his captors. But the military today refused to heed the order, despite the court’s determination that this was a case of mistaken identity. Last week, a respected tribal leader who is opposed to a mining project in the southern Philippines was shot dead, the latest in a series of attacks on environmentalists and leaders of tribal communities.

And on August 29, unidentified gunmen shot dead Nanding Solijon, a commentator on radio station DXLS famous for his on-air harangues against local politicians in southern Iligan city. He was the fourth Filipino journalist to be killed in August and the 19th since Aquino took office.

While Aquino has gained praise for the Philippines’ economic performance and even for some anticorruption efforts, the failure to provide real justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations weighs heavily on his administration.

 

 

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