[PHOTO COURTESY OF STARTRIGA ONLINE - Philippines President Noynoy Aquino- ROGUE Magazine June 2011 Issue Cover!]

MANILA, JUNE 8, 2011 (TRIBUNE) By Michaela P. del Callar - The culture of impunity in cases of extra-judicial killings has never gone away, even with a new leadership in government.

A prominent human rights watchdog scored President Aquino as it said it has yet to see “stronger action” from Aquino in providing justice for human rights victims and addressing impunity by the police and military amid bold campaign promises in ending extra-judicial killings, disappearances and harassment of left-wing activists.

Almost a year into his presidency, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it has not seen Aquino’s government taking sufficient steps to hold perpetrators of killings and other abuses accountable.

Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the Philippines should consider its reelection to the United Nations Human Rights Council “an opportunity to strengthen its credentials in this area at home and abroad.”

The international com-munity led by the United Nations, European Union and the United States has scored the Philippines’ dismal human rights record.

Although extra-judicial killings have decreased in the last couple of years, reports of abuses and murder of left-wing activists have persisted.

The Philippines, Pearson said, “should

take meaningful steps to protect human rights and promote accountability at home” as a new member of the UN Council.

In a letter to Aquino on June 6, Human Rights Watch called on the Aquino government “to investigate and prosecute officials, military personnel, and police officers implicated in extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other serious rights violations in the Philippines.”

Local rights group Karapatan claimed that 1,118 extra-judicial killings and more than 200 enforced disappearances were documented in the Philippines between 2001 and October 2009.

“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,” Pearson said.

“This means tenaciously prosecuting all those responsible for extrajudicial killings and ‘disappearances,’ regardless of rank or title,” she stressed.

Human Rights Watch also urged the Aquino administration to strengthen protections for the sexual and reproductive rights of all its citizens despite vehement opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic Church.

As a country that has been a leader in advocating for the protection of its workers abroad, the government should also strengthen cooperation with other labor-sending countries and commit to protecting the rights of domestic workers at home and abroad, the group said.

Pearson reminded Aquino that when the Philippines presented its candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council, it pledged to uphold the highest standards to promote and protect human rights.

The President, she said, “should take these important steps to live up to these standards and his past promises to promote justice and human rights.”

“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.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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