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Serious abuses still rampant, says report

Legal progress made, but accountability remains week

Serious abuses still rampant, says report reporter, Manila

February 1, 2013

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The Philippines made progress in promoting human rights legislation last year but has still "failed to address impunity for the most serious abuses," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its 2013 World Report released on Friday.

"On prosecuting rights abusers [the Philippine government] needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk," said Brad Adams, HRW director for Asia, in a statement.

The report acknowledged as "significant" the adoption of landmark human rights legislation last year, including the passage of a controversial reproductive health law.

President Benigno Aquino also enacted a law criminalizing enforced disappearances. On January 18, he also signed legislation aimed at protecting domestic workers.

The HRW report, however, noted that these gains could be cancelled out by the government’s failure to make significant progress in holding security forces accountable for serious abuses.

The report, which assesses progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, also described an increasing number of threats and attacks on environmental and anti-mining activists by security forces as alarming. 

At least 114 cases of extrajudicial killings have been reported since Aquino came to office in June 2010, although the number of reported cases last year was just 13. 

HRW said the government has made little progress in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture.

Since 2001, hundreds of leftist activists, journalists, rights defenders and clergy have been killed, allegedly by members of the military and police.

"If 2012 was the year for new laws promoting human rights, then 2013 should be the year for effective action," Adams said.

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