The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines [official website] announced Monday that it will investigate a recently discovered mass grave containing at least 30 suspected victims of the country's military coup in the 1980s. The chairwoman of the Commission Loretta Rosales [official profile] stated [WP report] that it is too early to draw conclusions on the identities of the perpetrators. The skeletal remains were removed on Sunday by Philippines soldiers and police officers after a farmer discovered them. It was reported that officials found evidence of torture such as cracked skulls. It was alleged that the victims were killed by the Philippines New People's Army (NPA) based on accusations of being military spies. The identity of the skeletons have yet to be determined and the government seeks the cooperation of victims' families to make the process faster.
The Philippines has been facing criticism for numerous human rights violations. Earlier this month, two UN Special Rapporteurs urged [JURIST report] the government of the Philippines to protect human rights defenders and ensure that they can pursue their work without interference. The call came after killings of rights defenders such as Fr. Fausto Tenorio who was found murdered in Mindanao last year and death threats directed against the families of such defenders. In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent a letter to the chief of staff of the nation's military calling the Philippines to address the issue of numerous human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable [JURIST report]. HRW urged action in four areas: ending impunity for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; addressing abuses by paramilitary forces; ceasing falsely tagging children as rebel fighters; and ending military use of schools. The human rights group had already urged the government to act on human rights violations last year when it announced that the country's authority has failed to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings [JURIST report] tied to the country's military. In July 2010 President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] signed an executive order to set up a "truth commission" to investigate allegations [JURIST report] that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and human rights violations. The move came after he announced [JURIST report] earlier that month his plans for the investigation into the allegations.