Philippines: Obama Should Press Aquino to Tackle Abuses
Justice Remains Elusive for Victims of Past Abuses
(Washington, DC, June 7, 2012)
US President Barack Obama should press Philippine PresidentBenigno Aquino III to bring to justice security forces implicated in serious human rights abuses,Human Rights Watch said today. Obama will be the host for a visit by the Philippine president inWashington, DC, beginning on June 8, 2012.
Philippinessecurity forces since 2001 have been implicated in hundreds of cases of extrajudicialkillings, torture, and enforced disappearances, Human Rights Watch said. Victims have includedleftist activists, journalists, alleged insurgents, environmentalists, and clergy. Killings havedropped significantly since President Aquino took office in 2010, but new cases have beenreported and few of those responsible have been held accountable.
“Obama needs to speak frankly with Aquino about addressing Philippine security forces’ abus
,Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Accountability for
is not only a matter of justice for victims, but vital for the Philippines’ future as a rights
US military expansion in Asia should not deter Obama from raising human rights concerns,Human Rights Watch said.Since 2002, US military personnel have conducted regular joint military operations with thePhilippines armed forces in the southern Philippines. US troops deployed in southernZamboanga City have assisted in operations on the islands of Basilan and Sulu against themilitant Islamist Abu Sayyaf group. Recent tensions in the South China Sea between thePhilippines and China over the resource-
rich island territories have underscored Manila’s close
military relationship with the United States.
Particularly during the previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the USforcefully raised concerns about lack of accountability in the Philippines. During the UniversalPeriodic Review of the Philippines, the assessment of its human rights situation before theUnited Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva on May 29, the US urged the Philippinegovernment to end impunity for extrajudicial killings and to take control over paramilitary forcesunder military command, which have a long history of abuses.
Since 2008, the US Congress has withheld $2 to $3 million per year in assistance to thePhilippines. The funds can be released only if the secretary of state certifies that the Philippine
government “is taking effective steps to prosecute those responsible for extra
-judicial executions[EJEs], sustain the decline in the number of EJEs, and strengthen government institutions
working to eliminate EJEs.”
The Philippines has not met the conditions for restoring the withheld assistance. Since 2008, theState Department has not certified the compliance required for the release of these funds, and itdid not agree to a request to certify compliance made by the Philippines foreign minister during avisit in May.