Annual Report: Philippines 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Philippines 2013

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Republic of the Philippines

Head of state and government Benigno S. Aquino III

Human rights defenders and journalists were at risk of unlawful killings, and thousands of cases of grave human rights violations remained unresolved. Victims of human rights violations, including during martial law from 1972 to 1981, continued to be denied justice, truth and reparations. In April, the Philippines acceded to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, but had not yet established the required mechanism to monitor treatment of detainees. Access to reproductive health care remained restricted; a new Reproductive Health Law was enacted in December.

Background

In October, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a Framework Agreement, which laid the ground for a peaceful resolution to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao but did not address human rights comprehensively. In October, Congress enacted the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which allows for a person to be jailed for up to 12 years for posting online comments judged libellous. After a public outcry, the Supreme Court later suspended implementation of the law pending judicial review. In November, the Philippines adopted the ASEAN human rights declaration, despite serious concerns that it falls short of international standards.

Unlawful killings

More than a dozen political and anti-mining activists and members of their families, and at least six journalists, were unlawfully killed.

  • Gunmen on motorcycle shot dead Mindanao radio broadcasters Christopher Guarin in January, Rommel Palma and Aldion Layao in April, Nestor Libaton in May, and Cabanatuan radio broadcaster Julius Causo in November. In September, the body of journalist and politician Eddie Apostol was found in Maguindanao with gunshot wounds to his head.
  • In September, unidentified men fired at Subanen tribal leader and anti-mining activist Timuay Lucenio Manda, while he was taking his 11-year-old son, Jordan, to school. Timuay Manda was injured in the ambush; Jordan was killed. Two suspects were arrested.
  • In October, soldiers fired at the house of B'laan tribal leader and anti-mining activist Daguil Capion in Davao del Sur, killing his pregnant wife Juvy and their children Jordan, aged 13, and John, aged eight. The authorities announced that 13 soldiers would face court martial, but it remained unclear whether they would be prosecuted in a civilian court.

Three years after the Maguindanao massacre, where state-armed militias led by government officials killed 57 people, the police still failed to arrest half of the 197 suspects. As trials of alleged perpetrators continued, prospective state witnesses, witnesses and their families continued to face threats.

  • In February, Alijol Ampatuan, an undisclosed witness willing to identify members of the Civilian Volunteer Organisation involved in the massacre, was killed.
  • Also in February, Hernanie Decipulo, a policeman being considered as a state witness, reportedly committed suicide while in police custody.
  • In May, the body of Esmail Amil Enog, who testified in court, had been found “chainsawed” to pieces.
  • In June, police reported that three relatives of witnesses connected to the Maguindanao case had been killed since the massacre.

In October, the UN Human Rights Committee concluded that the government should enhance the effectiveness of the witness protection programme and “fully investigate cases of killings and suspected intimidation of witnesses to put an end to the climate of fear that plagues investigation and prosecution.”

Torture and other ill-treatment

Three years after its promulgation, implementation of the Anti-Torture Act remained weak, with no perpetrator yet convicted of this crime. Torture victims, particularly criminal suspects, were reluctant to file complaints due to fear of reprisals and lengthy prosecution.