Annual Report: Philippines 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Philippines 2011

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Head of state and government: Benigno S. Aquino III (replaced Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in June)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 93.6 million
Life expectancy: 72.3 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 32/21 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 93.6 per cent

More than 200 cases of enforced disappearances recorded in the last decade remained unresolved, as did at least 305 cases of extrajudicial execution (with some estimates ranging as high as 1,200). Almost no perpetrators of these crimes have been brought to justice. Private armed groups continued to operate throughout the country, despite government commitments to disband and disarm them. Despite its 2010 deadline, the previous administration failed to "crush" the communist insurgency, and in August the new Aquino administration announced that counter-insurgency operations would be extended. Tens of thousands reportedly remained displaced in Mindanao two years after the end of the internal armed conflict, although the actual number was not known.

Background

National elections were held in May and local elections in October. Both were marred by politically motivated killings. In May Benigno Aquino III, son of former President Corazon Aquino and assassinated senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was elected President.

The resumption of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) remained delayed. However, in July, the government named its negotiating panel. In September, the MILF said it was ready to begin peace talks and named its peace negotiators.

Peace talks remained elusive between the government and the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Unlawful killings

During both the May and October elections, the number of political killings increased. Political party supporters faced intimidation and violence, including grenade attacks.

Hundreds of cases of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances from the last decade remained unresolved and perpetrators were not brought to justice. Almost none of the victims' families received reparations. At least 38 alleged political killings were reported during the year.

At least six journalists were reportedly killed in 2010. In the course of a single week in June, radio reporters Desiderio Camangyan (Mati City, southern Philippines) and Joselito Agustin (Laoag City, northern Philippines), and print journalist Nestor Bedolido (Digos City, southern Philippines) were shot dead.

In September, the trial of the suspected perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre began after significant delays. Fifty-seven people, including 32 journalists, were killed in the massacre, which took place in the run-up to national elections. At least 83 suspects were arrested and charged, including at least 16 policemen and members of the powerful political Ampatuan family. One hundred and thirteen suspects in the massacre remained at large.

  • Suwaid Upham, who was allegedly one of the gunmen during the massacre, came forward in March and was willing to testify in court as a possible witness. However, in June he was shot dead. Reportedly, despite efforts on his part, he had been unable to enrol in the Witness Protection Programme. Two suspects were arrested in connection with his murder.

The Philippine National Police reported that there were 117 private armed groups in February. In May, the Independent Commission Against Private Armies reported that there were at least 72 active private armed groups in the country, and that another 35 had already been dismantled by the police and military.

Many members of government-established, armed "force multipliers" - including Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs), police auxiliary units, and the Citizens' Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) - were also members of private armed groups. A former army general and member of the Independent Commission Against Private Armies told the media that local officials often used these volunteer groups and auxiliary units as private armies.