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We're doing better on human rights, says Philippines army

Rights groups fiercely dismiss its claims

We're doing better on human rights, says Philippines army

Philippines army claims right abuses by troops have lessened (AFP / Jay Directo) reporter, Manila

July 12, 2013

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The Philippines military has claimed that "mission-related human rights violations" have declined since the implementation of its internal peace and security plan in 2010, a statement that critics claim is baseless propaganda.

In a performance assessment of the year so far, the army said that only seven human rights violations had been committed by troops. Last year the total figure was 22, while it recorded 37 in 2011, and 51 in 2010.

Army chief General Emmanuel Bautista also said that recent developments in efforts to address human rights violations, such as the army's establishment of a human rights office to educate soldiers, also prove that the government is serious in stopping abuses.

Both claims however have been rounded upon by critics. "The [military] and its officials are making a fool of themselves by saying they are human rights advocates,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group, Karapatan, said. “The military’s record of human rights violations speaks for itself."

Karapatan data shows that 142 cases of extrajudicial killings and 164 attempted killings were allegedly committed by the military in the past three years. At least 16 incidents of enforced disappearance, 76 cases of torture, and 293 cases of illegal arrest and detention were also recorded.

Palabay also dismissed the military's invitation for human rights groups to work with the armed forces.

"Any respectable human rights organization will not be trapped into their lies on security sector reform. We have, and will always, work with the poor and marginalized," she said.

Bautista said the military is expected to maintain its control on the momentum of internal security operations in 2013 through "human rights-based focused military operations" targeting the communist-led New People's Army rebels.

Peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front, an umbrella group of organisations to which the New People's Army belongs, have been stalled for nearly two years, with the rebels demanding the release of their consultants to the process and the government saying it will only return to negotiations if all insurgent attacks cease.

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