The Philippine government has failed to investigate and prosecute extrajudicial killings tied to the country's military, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced [press release] Tuesday. In a report [text, PDF] entitled "No Justice Just Adds to the Pain: Killings, Disappearances, and Impunity in the Philippines," HRW presents evidence indicating that the Philippine military was involved in seven murders and three disappearances of leftist activists since President Benigno Aquino III [official website] took office in June 2010. Many of the victims were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army (CPP-NPA), a group whose members are typically involved in leftist organizations and oppose military presence in local communities. The killings and abductions allegedly carried out by the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) paramilitary forces often take place with witnesses standing by, the report said. Elaine Pearson, Deputy Asia Director at HRW, condemned the military's behavior and called on the government to hold soldiers accountable:
Activists are being gunned down in the street, while implicated soldiers walk free. The Philippines can only bring an end to these horrific abuses if it is clear that anyone who orders or commits them will be jailed and their military careers will be over. The brazen nature of some of these abuses—in broad daylight and in front of witnesses—shows how members of the military can kill and 'disappear' people with little regard for the consequences. Tagging someone as a leftist activist is like sounding the alarm that they are on a military hit list.HRW was unable to report on several other alleged military killings because of time constraints.
The Philippines has faced political turmoil in recent years. Aquino signed an executive order [text, PDF] in July 2010 to set up a "truth commission" [JURIST report] to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] engaged in corruption and rights violations. Arroyo was elected to the lower house of parliament in April 2010 after receiving permission to run for the seat [JURIST report] despite protests that her presidency gave her an unfair advantage. In March of that year, Aquino and other presidential candidates criticized as "unjust" a Supreme Court ruling that allowed Arroyo to appoint a replacement for the retiring chief justice [JURIST report], who planned to step down a week after the May presidential elections. Arroyo declared martial law [JURIST report] in December 2009 for the first time in 23 years in the wake of a massacre in the Maguindanao province that left 57 dead.