Philippine army defends human rights record
MANILA THE Philippine military on Monday defended the Aquino administration’s human rights record, saying that abuses committed by security forces are now being investigated and punished.
Colonel Domingo Tutaan, head of the military’s human rights office, also denied accusations levelled by monitor group Human Rights Watch (HRW) that extra-judicial killings and other abuses were continuing unchecked under President Benigno Aquino, who has pledged to crack down on rights violations.
“We have looked into them (abuses). We took action against our troops who were found to have violated laws,” Tutaan told.
The military was working with the official Commission on Human Rights to probe any reported abuse while also investigating cases on its own, he added.
But the latest HRW report on the Philippines, released on Sunday, charged that the country’s rights record had changed little under its new leader.
“The administration... has not fulfilled its promises of reform and made little progress in ending impunity for abuses by state security forces,” even after a year and a half in office, the New Yorkbased monitor said.
However Tutaan said that one case cited by the report, the torture of a suspected Muslim militant, had seen the offending soldiers dismissed and likely facing criminal charges.
Other cases of abuse were also under investigation, he said.
“If there are violations, they are not tolerated and they are investigated with full due process of law,” Tutaan said.
Human Rights Watch also repeated its call for the government to disband para-military forces organised by the military to fight communist insurgents in the Southeast Asian archipelago.
Tutaan defended the forces, saying that they were mandated by law and that 20,000-odd militiamen were under the control of the armed forces and subject to military justice.
Aquino, the son of two prodemocracy heroes, was elected president in 2010 with a promise to curb rights abuses, including the high-profile killing of 57 people allegedly by a powerful political clan in November, 2009.
However human rights groups say rights abuses remain widespread.
The Philippines’ key ally, the United States, has called on Aquino for tougher action on human rights abuses, particularly extra-judicial killings, in exchange for more aid, the US ambassador said in November.