Published on Karapatan (http://www.karapatan.org)
Karapatan Submission to the Universal Periodic Review May 2012
KARAPATAN, in consultation with its member organizations and other related organizations, is submitting this report on the state of human rights in the country with recommendations to the OHCHR for the 13th session of the UPR in the UN Human Rights Council in May-June 2012.
The Philippines was a state under review (SuR) in the first session of the first cycle of the UPR in 2008, being a member of the 47 member-states of the Human Rights Council in 2007.
The Philippine government (GPH), in its national report, stated that it “has taken firm measures to address the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances…addressing this most urgent concern, by bringing their perpetrators to justice and preventing such killings in future, remains a priority of Government.”[i]  The 2008 review noted in the GPH’s national report all efforts taken to maintain its “commitment to human rights remains paramount, even amidst active insurgencies and other threats to national security.” The national report glowingly presented the GPH’s efforts to supposedly protect the human rights of its citizens. [ii] 
Reports gathered by NGOs like Karapatan, however, present a contradictory and alarming picture of the human rights situation on the ground, as major breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other major UN instrumentalities continue to be committed by state security forces with the implementation of the government’s counter-insurgency program dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I & II which was operational up to end December 2010; and the new program by the present dispensation, known as Oplan Bayanihan.
The human rights situation remains, as it was in 2008, and continues to be alarming to this day, as violations continue to be committed with impunity. Extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other gross and systematic violations of human rights were, and are being wantonly committed.
In 2008, Karapatan has documented 64 victims of extrajudicial killings, eight cases of enforced disappearances, 66 victims of torture and 320 victims of illegal arrests.[iii]  James Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, was abducted by state security forces on September 17, 2008. Since then, Balao remains missing and the Philippine government has not acted to bring the perpetrators to justice. [iv] 
Impunity persisted and worsened in 2009, as 130 victims of extrajudicial killings were documented by Karapatan. These included Rebelyn Pitao[v] , a young teacher, civilian and daughter of New People’s Army commander Leoncio Pitao. She was abducted, tortured, raped and brutally killed; 58 other civilians including journalists and women lawyers, were massacred in Maguindanao province by paramilitary groups and private armies of Gov. Andal Ampatuan, a known ally of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. [vi]  Abduction and torture continued unabated as in the case of Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American member of Bayan-USA, and her two companions, who were abducted and tortured by elements believed as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. [vii] 
There was no let up on human rights violations, even in the last six months of the Arroyo government and her OBL (from January-June 2010). Benjamin Bayles, a Karapatan member who was killed by members of the military in June 2010, was among the 18 victims of extrajudicial killings during this period. The 43 health workers (Morong 43), composed of doctors, nurses, midwives, and community health workers were illegally arrested, tortured, and detained for 10 months in 2010. They are among the 96 victims of illegal arrests and 71 victims of torture. [viii] 
During the nine-year watch of President Arroyo, Karapatan documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 victims of enforced disappearances, while there were 2, 059 victims of illegal arrests and 1,099 victims of torture.[ix] 
Although the government enacted an Anti-Torture law in November 2009 and abolished the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group in May 2009 as recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston, torture continued to be widely used. Many of Prof. Alston’s recommendations were left unheeded such as taking concrete steps “to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations;” issuance of directives for “all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies;” and the conviction in a significant number of extrajudicial executions. The OBL continued; the military’s vilification campaign against NGOs and human rights defenders went on; there was no conviction of any perpetrator, instead, many of them received promotions and accolades from the government.
When the nine-year rule of Arroyo ended, the Filipino people grew to hate her administration that in the 2010 elections, they cast their votes on the son of two famous Filipino democracy icons.
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