Dear President Aquino,
We are writing to you from the UK-based Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) on your visit to this country. CHRP UK recently attended the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on the Philippines in Geneva last 29 June 2012 as an official delegate to the UPR Watch, a contingent of more than 10 civil society groups from the Philippines, and as a member of the International Coordinating Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines, a global network of human rights organisations.
We note from the GRP’s report a showcase of steps being taken to address human rights issues in the country such as the ratification of an “Anti-Torture Act” and discussions on the bill to enact the “Involuntary Disappearance Act.” While these are welcome developments, we are still largely concerned that the core issues of accountability, transparency and speedy justice are still left unanswered if we are to consider the very low conviction rate of perpetrators, the failure of the government to press charges and arrest those suspected of rights violations, and the effects of the Oplan Bayanihan program on community activists, church workers, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists and other human rights advocates in the country. We are also concerned with economic partnerships being forged between the UK and Philippines, which is one of the key aims of your visit, with current UK investments in the Philippines already casuing human rights abuses, such as the proposed mining project of Xstrata in Tampakan, where a recent fact finding mission saw increased militarization in the area and other rights infringements against tribal communities.
We support the country missions’ recommendations during the UPR to completely eradicate extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and all forms of human rights violations by taking decisive steps to hold accountable suspects of these ongoing cases, such as the call to arrest the fugitive Gen. Jovito Palparan, a primary suspect for the abduction of the two student activists who, to date, is still at large and nowhere to be found. We also back the endorsement of sending of Special Rapporteurs in the Philippines to further conduct impartial investigations on these human rights abuses cases, especially those involving state forces. CHRP UK will monitor these recommendations and will be continuing to raise awareness within the UK and international community that these steps are undertaken.
To date, there are already over 70 reported cases of extrajudicial killings since your government took office. There are still thousands of cases where families are seeking justice. We demand that you implement findings of the UPR to finally end the culture of impunity which allows these gross human rights violations to take place. We look forward to your response as regards measures you will take to address these issues.
Rev Canon Barry Naylor
Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines
Urban Canon and Parish Priest of the Abbey and Holy Spirit Ministries, Leicester