The US State Department released today its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006, which looks at the human-rights situation in countries around the world. The report, prepared by the department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, was released in Washington DC today by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The report has this to say about the Philippines: “During the year there were a number of arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors. Many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases.”
It blamed state security forces and insurgents, mainly the New People’s Army, for these attacks.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007
The Philippines, with a population of 87 million, is a democratic republic with an elected president, an elected bicameral legislature, and a multiparty system. The May 2004 national elections for president and both houses of congress continued to be a source of contention, with unsuccessful attempts in 2005 and during the year to impeach the president on grounds of alleged election fraud. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces; however, some elements of these security forces committed human rights abuses.
During the year there were a number of arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings apparently by elements of the security services and of political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors. Many of these killings went unsolved and unpunished, contributing to a climate of impunity, despite intensified government efforts during the year to investigate and prosecute these cases. Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed and procedures were prolonged. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Corruption was a problem in all the institutions making up the criminal justice system, including police, prosecutorial, and judicial organs. During a brief “state of emergency” in February, there was some attempted interference in freedom of the press and in the right of assembly. In addition to the killings mentioned above, leftwing and human rights activists were often subject to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women and abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common.
In addition to killing soldiers and police officers in armed encounters, the New People’s Army (NPA, the military wing of the Communist Party) killed local government officials, and ordinary civilians, including through the use of landmines, and were suspected in many of the killings of leftwing activists. The NPA also used underage soldiers in combat roles. Terrorist groups committed bombings that caused civilian casualties, and these groups also used underage soldiers.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
Security forces and antigovernment insurgents committed a number of arbitrary and unlawful killings. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigated 296 complaints of killings between January and November, compared with a total of 453 complaints of killings during 2005. The CHR suspected personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a number of the killings of leftist activists operating in rural areas that it investigated during the year. A number of allegations of summary executions by government security forces were referred to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP); TFDP was unable to investigate all of these allegations, but it did document the summary executions of 20 individuals by government forces through December.
On May 12, the Department of Interior and Local Government formed “Task Force Usig” within the PNP to investigate the killings of activists and journalists (see section 2.a.). Through December, the task force recorded 142 killings since 2001; 68 of these led to cases filed in court, with one conviction so far, and the remainder still under investigation.
On August 20, President Arroyo created an independent commission headed by former supreme court justice Jose A. Melo to investigate patterns in the killings of journalists and leftist activists and to make policy and legislative recommendations for dealing with the problem. The commission completed its investigation in December and was expected to submit its report to the president in January 2007.Extrajudicial Killings, Terrorism