MANILA, Philippines- The Philippines have fallen victim to numerous human rights problems resulting in thousands of displaced citizens, journalistic killings and impunity for criminals and government officials alike. Absent the political will to address these issues, it seems the Philippines will be plagued by these problems for the foreseeable future.
The administration of Benigno Aquino III has taken notice of these problems and has put forth proposals to address much of the abuses carried out by government officials. A “super body” has been proposed to quicken the process of investigating and prosecuting those responsible for extrajudicial killings.
However, the “super body” remains inactive. In fact, many of the proposed reforms seem to be nothing but empty rhetoric.
A disturbing example of the government’s ineptitude or unwillingness to pursue justice for murder is that of a significant number of journalist killings.
In 2013, 12 journalists were killed. 26 have been killed since President Aquino III took office in 2010.
Only six cases have resulted in arrests, while only two have led to convictions. The two convicted murders still remain at large.
It has gotten so dangerous for journalists in the Philippines that the Committee to Protect Journalists has ranked it as its third worst offender on its impunity index.
Motorcycle mounted gunman seems to be the preferred method by which to dispatch innocent journalists.
One journalist, Rogelio Butalib, was one of the most recent victims. He was a local radio personality and tackled corruption issues.
Fighting in the southern Philippines also needs to be addressed better by the government. In fall 2013, fighting broke out in the city of Zamboanga between Muslim rebel fighters and government forces.
The fighting broke out when over 200 Moro National Liberation Front rebels stormed the city and attempted to declare their independence from the government.
So far, the fighting has destroyed the citizen’s homes or inspired many to flee the conflict. Over 100,000 individuals have been displaced by the conflict.
The fighting on both sides has made some organizations such as Human Rights Watch take note of the bloodshed. Rebel fighters have allegedly used hostages as human shields while fighting government forces. It is also alleged by many that the government has tolerated the torture and mistreatment of detainees.
The southern provinces of the Philippines have been troubled by conflict for decades. The region is predominantly Muslim with many insurgent groups occupying the area.
Over the past several decades, over 150,000 people have been killed by insurgent violence.
The Filipino government must try harder to stem rampant human rights abuses in the island nation.
The lack of interest the government has in pursuing the journalist’s killers seems suspicious. What makes one consider some type of government involvement is the fact Butalib was elected to a district post this past October following a competitive election.
– Zack Lindberg
Sources: Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera, TIME