[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent a letter [text] Monday to the chief of staff of the Philippines military, Lt. Gen. Jesse Dellosa, urging the Philippines to act on multiple human rights abuses [press release] and hold violators accountable. HRW acknowledges that the reputation of the military has increased with current President Benigno Aquino III [official website] in office, but claims there has been little progress on this issue and the military should be helping rather than impeding current civilian investigations. The letter to Dellosa states, “We urge you also to use your leadership opportunity to end impunity for human rights abuses within the armed forces and leave as your legacy a professional, accountable military.” The letter urges action in four areas including: 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. HRW has previously urged the government to investigate and prosecute [JURIST report] extrajudicial killings tied to the country’s military in a report [text, PDF] entitled “No Justice Just Adds to the Pain: Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines.”
The Philippines has faced a lot of turmoil in recent years. Prior to the publishing of the HRW report in 2011, Aquino signed an executive order setting up a “truth commission” [JURST report] in 2010 to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] engaged in corruption and rights violations. Arroyo pleaded not guilty to electoral fraud charges in February after being formally charged [JURIST reports] last year. Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament in April 2010 after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] despite protests that her presidency gave her an unfair advantage. In March of that year, Aquino and other presidential candidates criticized as “unjust” a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Arroyo to appoint a replacement for the retiring chief justice [JURIST report], who planned to step down a week after the May presidential elections. Arroyo declared martial law [JURIST report] in December 2009 for the first time in 23 years in the wake of a massacre in the Maguindanao province that left 57 dead.