The Philippines: human rights situation

Amnesty International UK Media Briefing

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s UK visit, 5-6 December 2007

Under President Arroyo’s administration, there have been political killings and enforced disappearances, together with widespread impunity for perpetrators.
There are also reports of arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as torture and other ill-treatment within the criminal justice system and at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Political killings and impunity
Since 2001 there has been an increase in the number of killings and enforced disappearances of activists in the Philippines. As part of a national counter-insurgency policy, the targets of these killings are predominantly groups allied with legal leftist or left-oriented groups, community leaders and journalists. The killings are mostly carried out by unidentified men, who shoot the victims before escaping on motorcycles. Reports indicate that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is involved in these killing, which are rarely the subject of thorough investigations.

Amnesty International is calling on the Philippine government to put an end to political killings and enforced disappearances, including by ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable. In order to prevent further injustice and human rights violations, Amnesty International is urging the government to ensure the security of witnesses and their families through an adequate witness protection programme. The organisation further calls for scrutiny of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and its role in human rights violations.

Torture and ill-treatment
Amnesty International is concerned at torture and ill-treatment within the criminal justice system and at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Despite the ratification by the country of the United Nations Convention against Torture, the revised Penal Code does not outlaw the crime of torture. Torture often accompanies abductions of suspected rebels or sympathisers. In addition, reports indicate that the police often use torture to extract confessions, particularly when pressured to solve a case quickly or in high-profile cases.

Amnesty International is calling for the prompt, impartial and effective investigation of all complaints of the use of torture by official personnel, and for suspected perpetrators to be brought to justice in fair trials.

Arbitrary detention
Amnesty International is concerned that the use of arrests without a warrant is extensive and that many of these arrests may be arbitrary. Amnesty International also has a number of concerns in relation to provisions contained in the Human Security Act, which places restrictions on freedom of movement of an individual placed under house arrest, even on the basis of weak “evidence of guilt”.

Amnesty International is concerned that the Act may be used to target the peaceful activities of legal leftist organisations, including by resort to the vaguely worded offence of being “accessory” to the crime of “terrorism”. Other concerns relate to mandatory sentences, restrictions on the right to bail and the possibility of detention without warrant, charge or trial for three days, which can be extended. Amnesty International is concerned that the Act could be abused by authorities to pursue arbitrary detention of political opponents. Several cases are pending before the courts challenging the constitutionality of the Act.

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