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Philippines : Unbroken impunity ten years on

| A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission on Human Rights Day 2014

( December 10, 2014, Hong Kong SAR, Sri Lanka Guardian) On Human Rights Day 2014, the Asian Human Rights Commission notes the persistent pattern of state perpetrated attacks, notably against human rights and political activists, which has continued for over a decade in the Philippines.

It was in early 2000s that the AHRC noticed the emergence of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest, and detention of activists. It had its peak in the 2005-07 period, where almost every day there were reports of killings. Ten years on, only the number of laws enacted, not the perpetrators convicted, have increased.

While these targeted attacks waned in late 2007, notably after they drew outrage and international attention on the state of human rights in post-Marcos Philippines, a similar pattern has resurfaced again.

In 2009, Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noted that the “Government’s failure to institutionalize or implement the many necessary reforms (A/HRC/11/2/Add.8, para 43)”, could easily reverse the fragile progress it has made, notably a decrease in the number of killings.

This is what is happening in the Philippines now. The situation, however, is more daunting than even before. To demand accountability from a government now perceived as more popular than its predecessor is more challenging.

Ten years on, despite the enactment of human rights laws, such as those against torture, forced disappearance, and crimes against humanity, the government has failed to achieve “significant number of convictions in extrajudicial executions”.

The reproduction of laws on human rights served a political purpose favourable to the government, rather than ensuring robust institutional protection of rights. Ten years ago, when security forces faced no consequences for torture due to the absence of law, it was lamentable; today, when such impunity is lamented in the face of laws, the government feels no pressure.

The enactment of laws has shielded the government, which has used the rhetoric that “routine, widespread and systematic” violations of rights in nature could not possibly be a state policy because such violations have been made a crime. This kind rhetoric has been a serious challenge to discourse on human rights in the Philippines.

As seen in the last ten years, the absence of any sort of accountability against state perpetrators has entrenched impunity deeper. The pervasive targeted attacks on human rights and political activists continue unabated.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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