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New pope urged to tackle rights abuses

Activists hope his own experience will spark a response

Activists call for an end to political killings in the country (photo from Arkibong Bayan) Activists call for an end to political killings in the country (photo from Arkibong Bayan)
  • D'Jay Lazaro, Manila
  • Philippines
  • March 15, 2013
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Activists on Friday urged newly elected Pope Francis to pay extra attention to human rights abuses that they say are still widespread in the Philippines.

"We hope Pope Francis will put the Philippines on the map of global concern," said Fernando Hicap, spokesman of the workers group Anakpawis.

"Seeing the Philippines is like seeing Argentina and other nations in Latin America at the height of their … dictatorial regimes," Hicap said.

He said the situation in the Philippines should elicit the enthusiasm of Pope Francis who lived through a dictatorial regime in his native Argentina during the late 1970's and early 80's.

Thousands of opponents of Argentina's military junta disappeared and were killed at that time in a campaign that has become known as the 'Dirty War.'

"The [Philippines] is being ruled by a de facto dictator who believes his ‘popularity’ is a license to kill or harass groups exposing crimes to the people," Hicap said.

"It would be morally inspiring for social justice advocates to see Pope Francis coming here or hear the pope telling [President Benigno Aquino] to stop human rights violations against the people," he added.

Human rights group Karapatan noted that extra-judicial killings "have gone from bad to worse" during the Aquino administration.

In its 2012 year-end report, Karapatan said, “killings have gone back to being gruesome” and “attacks against the people are marked with contemptuous boldness.”

The group, which documents cases of human rights violations in the Philippines, reported that 13 out of a recorded 51 cases of extrajudicial killings in 2012 involved minors as victims.

It has recorded a total of 137 cases of extrajudicial killings since Aquino assumed power in June 2010, as well as 14 enforced disappearances, 72 cases of torture, 229 illegal arrests, and 27,308 cases of threat, harassment and intimidation.

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