MANILA, Philippines — The United States (U.S.) government has identified extrajudicial killing (EJK) as the chief human rights concern in the Philippines, a 2018 report said.
In its annual global human rights report for 2018 released March 13, the U.S. State Department noted a “sharp rise” of extrajudicial killings with the onset of the Philippine government’s campaign against illegal drugs in 2016.
“Extrajudicial killings have been the chief human rights concern in the country for many years and, after a sharp rise with the onset of the anti-drug campaign in 2016, they continued in the reporting year, albeit at a lower level,” the report read.
The report noted that from January to September 29, the media has chronicled 673 deaths in police operations suspected to be connected with the government’s war on drugs.
It also noted that civilian control over the Philippine National Police (PNP) “continued to improve but was not fully effective.”
Human rights issues included unlawful or arbitrary killings by security forces, vigilantes, and others allegedly connected to the government, and by insurgents; forced disappearance; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; criminal libel; killings of and threats against journalists; official corruption and abuse of power; and the use of forced and child labor.
The U.S. State Department said the Philippine government investigated a “limited number” of reported human rights abuses including abuses by its own forces, paramilitary and insurgent and terrorist groups.
It added that police impunity “increased significantly” after the sharp increase in killings by police in 2016.
“Significant concerns persisted about impunity of civilian national and local government officials and powerful business and commercial figures,” the report read.
“Slow judicial processes remained an obstacle to bringing government officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses to justice,” it added.
The report cited data from the PNP which stated that 441 police officers have been accused of committing human rights violations from January to July 2018.
Of the number, the report said court charges remain pending in 375 cases, 50 accused personnel were exonerated; 10 cases were dismissed; four police officers were dismissed from the service, one suspended, and one demoted.
An additional 21 police personnel were dismissed from the service for their participation in anti-drug operations.
The report described the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS), which was mandated to ensure police personnel operate within the law, as “largely ineffective.”
In April, the IAS reported that from 2015 to 2017, final reports with a recommendation for action had been submitted to PNP leadership in only 721 out of 2,431 cases.
The IAS reported that manpower and resource limitations hampered the legally required investigations into deaths resulting from police operations, but asserted nonetheless that 100 percent of the deaths in police shootings resulted from legitimate, lawful police actions.
The U.S. report also noted the “often harsh and potentially life-threatening” conditions in the country’s jail institutions.
“Prison conditions were often harsh and potentially life threatening and, in most cases, included gross overcrowding, inadequate sanitary conditions, physical abuse, and constant lack of resources including medical care and food,” the report read.
The reported noted that Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) facilities operated at more than 2.5 times the official capacity of 16,010, holding 43,978 prisoners.
It added that the capacity remained the same as in 2017, but the number of prisoners grew by 2,000.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the report noted, confirmed that overcrowding had worsened because of the Duterte administration’s anti-drug campaign.
Citing data from BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the U.S.State Dept. report noted that there were 799 inmate deaths from January to July 2018.
It added that medicine allowance for each prisoner was only P10 per day.
“Opportunities for prisoner recreation, learning, and self-improvement remained scarce,” it added.
The following topics were also included in the report:
- Respect for Civil Liberties
- Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
- Corruption and Lack of Transparency
- Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
- Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
- Worker Rights. /muf
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