Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

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The Philippines is often recognized by global institutions for its strong commitment to human rights. Indeed, compared with other countries in the region, where government critics are given insanely long prison sentences and media reports are heavily censored by the authorities, the freedom loving Philippines may seem like a viable and vibrant democratic state to the casual international observer.

But the existence of Western-style democracy in the country doesn’t mean it’s fully compliant with international human rights norms. There’s a free press in the Philippines, but it’s also one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. Activists and political dissidents are free to organize rallies and assemblies even without securing police permits, but many of them have become victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances over the past decade.

Indeed, human rights violations became so intense during the incumbency of Gloria Arroyo that a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions visited the Philippines in 2007 to investigate the rise in political killings, torture, and kidnapping in the country. Arroyo’s atrocious human rights record was also one of the major issues in last year’s presidential elections, which saw a landslide victory for the opposition.

And since President Benigno Aquino III was one of the leaders who decried the human rights violations committed by the previous administration, human rights groups had high expectations that the killings of activists and journalists would stop. And the killings did stop, but only for a brief time.

To the surprise of human rights defenders, the new government hasn’t bothered to file appropriate charges against military officials involved in well-documented cases of human rights violations. Activists demanded an end to the climate of impunity that allowed perpetrators of the most heinous crimes against humanity to remain unpunished, but they received no concrete response from the government.

The latest report drafted by Karapatan, a human rights NGO, reveals the poor performance of the Aquino government when it comes to human rights. The numbers are very disappointing: There are 64 victims of extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings from July 1, 2010 to October 31, 2011. This translates to one political killing per week in the past 16 months. According to the same report, 6 victims are women and 37 are human rights workers. More than 40 percent of the victims are peasants followed by indigenous peoples and workers. There are 9 cases of enforced disappearances and 52 cases of torture.

The government claims there are no political prisoners in the Philippines but Karapatan was able to count 78 prisoners who had been arrested in the past year because of their political beliefs and activities. Karapatan added that there are 356 political detainees in the country who are facing various trumped-up charges.

The group observed that human rights violations tend to be higher in areas where development and infrastructure projects have been identified by the government like large-scale mining, power plants, and airports. In particular, the recent decision of the government to approve the formation of a Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary to secure mining operations is blamed for the heightened attacks against environment defenders and tribal community leaders.

And since the Philippines is confronted with two insurgencies – the world’s longest communist insurgency and a Muslim separatist movement – the slow pace of peace negotiations between the government and the rebels means more civilians are being harmed or killed in conflict areas. Thousands of villagers have also been forced to evacuate their homes in many parts of Mindanao Island because of military operations and the armed activities of rebels.

Aquino should remember the promises he made during his campaign if he wants to address these human rights issues. First, he should mainstream a pro-human rights agenda in the policymaking process. Second, he should tackle the roots of the armed conflict as his government prepares to fast track the peace talks with both the communist and Muslim rebels.

Edited version of a post I submitted for The Diplomat

Jail Gloria

I agree that Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo deserves ‘special treatment’ because she was former president of the Republic. As a concession to her camp, let’s give Rep. Arroyo the chance to choose her preferred detention facility in Metro Manila. After inquiring from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, we learned that there are 25 jails in Metro Manila, 19 of which can accommodate female prisoners.

Name of Jail Female Population

1. Caloocan City Jail 108
2. Las Pinas 83
3. Makati 81
4. Malabon 38
5. Manila 773
6. Mandaluyong 98
7. Marikina 46
8. Muntinlupa 84
9. Paranaque 116
10. Pasay 109
11. Pasig 92
12. Taguig 61
13. Valenzuela 40
14. Navotas 30
15. San Juan 31
16. Pateros 9
17. Quezon City Female Dorm 550
18. Rodriguez 21
19. San Mateo 24

It’s clear that we don’t have a shortage of prisons in Metro Manila so let’s stop looking for hospitals or houses suitable for Rep. Arroyo.

I’m certain that our jail wardens will be honored if their prison will be chosen by Rep. Arroyo. They can reserve a special room where Arroyo can meet visiting relatives, friends and lawyers.

If Arroyo’s wish to be placed under La Vista house arrest is granted, it will be very unfair to the 2,394 female prisoners in Metro Manila who are looking forward to be jailmates with the former president.

First posted on Kabataan Partylist

One Response to “Aquino’s Human Rights Problem”

  1. I just recently opened several activists blogs. Reading your posts make me now wonder about the dominant belief in our society favoring democracy and liberty. I am just thinking, aren’t these words utilized as smoke screen, but the real substance is one of tyranny and exploitation?


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