The government institutions charged with promoting human rights and accountability have done little to end the widespread impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the group said further.
Human Rights Watch said that in several recent cases the group has investigated, the Commission on Human Rights did not actively investigate the killing or “disappearance,” did not provide updates to relatives on the status of their investigations, and placed significant burdens on family members who are applying for compensation from the commission. The CHR did not provide psychological support to the victims’ relatives or witnesses in any of the investigated cases, the group said.
Human Rights Watch had also found that the Office of the Ombudsman “has done almost nothing to investigate the involvement of members of the security forces in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”
“Reforms to curtail disappearances, such as Supreme Court writs of amparo and habeas data, which were designed to compel the military to release information on people in their custody, have been largely ineffectual,” Human Rights Watch said. The group particularly cited case of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, noting that the Court of Appeals denied the petition for amparo despite evidence that the students were at grave risk.
After two years, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision and ordered the military to surface the missing activists. The military denied involvement in the abduction.
Human Rights Watch noted that the Philippines has not signed or ratified the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which sets out specific standards on preventing and punishing enforced disappearances.
Amnesty International likewise pointed out that Aquino has not yet endorsed any human rights legislation as priority.
Recommendations to Aquino
Human Rights Watch called on Aquino to:
• Issue an executive order directing police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) investigators to vigorously pursue crimes allegedly committed by the military, or themselves be subject to disciplinary measures for insubordination or a criminal investigation for obstruction of justice or graft and corruption.
• Direct the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to take all necessary measures to end military involvement in extrajudicial killings.
• Ensure AFP compliance at all levels with investigations of other agencies, including the police, NBI, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the ombudsman, and inquiries by legislative bodies and other public officials.
• Produce a plan for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the reports of the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, the Melo Commission, and human rights NGOs reporting on extrajudicial killings.
• Ask congress to create a nationwide emergency assistance number for family members and witnesses to killings and “disappearances.”
• Sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and transmit to the Senate for prompt ratification.
• Invite the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the special rapporteur on human rights defenders to visit the Philippines.