March 15, 2010
While boxer Manny Pacquiao brought pride to the Philippines yesterday, the Arroyo government once again found a way to bring shame to the country after the United States State Department released its 2009 human rights report on the Philippines.
According to the State Department report, “arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors continued to be major problems.”
The report also said that during the previous year “members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees” and that “leftist and human rights activists often were subject to harassment by local security forces.”
“This report brings shame to the country. It’s ridiculous that Arroyo apologists are even trying to put a positive spin to it. It is clear that the rights abuses committed by state security forces persist under the Arroyo administration. How can Malacanang be encouraged over that?” asked Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“Malacanang is trying to downplay the impact of the report by saying that the rights abuses mentioned were only individual cases. They want to make it appear that these are unrelated, isolated events that do not form a pattern of abuse by state security forces,” Reyes said.
Palace officials said over the weekend that they were elated by the positive assessment they got from the report. They have asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to submit a report on the status of the individual cases mentioned in the report.
“You can’t window-dress a damning report. It is what it is. Human rights abuses and a climate of impunity persist under the Arroyo regime,” Reyes said.
The report alludes to the case involving Filipino-American Melissa Roxas who was abducted and tortured by suspected members of the military. She was later granted a writ of amparo by the Court of Appeals.
The US report cited the killings of teacher Rebelyn Pitao, environmental activist Eleazar “Boy” Billanes and farmer leader Fermin Lorico as some of the cases of extrajudicial killings that were committed in 2009. The report reaffirms earlier assertions by militant groups that the Arroyo government has targeted activists.
Bayan also called on the US government to heed its own report and stop giving military aid to the Arroyo government. “The US State Department report affirms what many groups have been saying all along: that the human rights situation is not at all well in the Philippines, despite claims to the contrary by the Arroyo government. The situation is so bad even the US can’t ignore it,” Reyes said.
“If despite the report, US military aid to continues to increase, then clearly the US is directly supporting human rights abuses in the Philippines,” he added.
Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
Bayan Secretary General