HR under Aquino: ‘Nothing has changed’

2010 HR REPORT Dec 2010 MANILA, Philippines – “Nothing has changed” in the Philippine human rights situation under President Benigno Aquino and, in fact, violations of civil and political rights are “getting worse,” the human rights alliance Karapatan said Wednesday.

Releasing its 2010 Human Rights Report, Karapatan noted that there have already been 20 extrajudicial killings of activists in Aquino’s first four months, compared to the 18 who died in the last six months of the term of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The report documents human rights violations from January to October this year.

“Contrary to his promised change and daang matuwid (straight or righteous path), PNoy (Aquino) not only did not pursue justice for the victims, he is adding more victims to the already long list,” Karapatan chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez said in a statement. “His promised ‘cases of extrajudicial killings need to be solved, not just identify the perpetrators but have them captured and sent to jail’ statement has fast become an empty forgotten promise as killings continue without letup.  In fact, perpetrators have become more atrocious and impunity is worsening.”

Enriquez singled out Aquino’s appointment of Colonel Domingo Tutaan as head of the Armed Forces’ human rights office, which she called an “alarming message that no essential change will take place in the character of a repressive state.”

Tutaan, she pointed out, is the brother of Lieutenant Colonel Federico Tutaan, whose Army unit was involved in the killing of renowned botanist Leonardo Co and two of his companions in Leyte last month.

The military has claimed that Co died in the crossfire when soldiers clashed with communist rebels. But this has denied by witnesses as well as friends and colleagues of the botanist.

Enriquez also cited the raid on Karapatan’s Camarines Norte., the continued detention of the so-called “Morong 43” and other political prisoners, worsening militarization in the countryside, the extension of the counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya, and Aquino’s refusal to disband militias despite growing observations that these have often been used as private armies by political warlords.

Karapatan criticized Aquino’s granting amnesty to rebel soldiers while leaving the fate of political prisoners to the courts.

“In the case of the Morong 43, it has been admitted by no less than the President himself that the warrant was faulty and pieces of evidence were illegally gotten,” Karapatan said.

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