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Top marks for talk low marks for action on human rights

MANILA (UCAN) : The Philippines made progress in promoting human rights legislation last year but has still “failed to address impunity for the most serious abuses,” Human Rights Watch says in its 2013 World Report released on February 2.

“On prosecuting rights abusers (the Philippine government) needs to walk-the-walk, not just talk-the-talk,” Brad Adams, the director for Asia for the human rights watchdog, said in a statement.

The report acknowledged as significant the adoption of landmark human rights legislation during 2012, including the passage of a controversial reproductive health law.

The president, Noynoy Aquino, also enacted a law criminalising enforced disappearances. On January 18, he also signed legislation aimed at protecting domestic workers.

The report, however, notes that these gains could be cancelled out by the government’s failure to make significant progress in holding security forces accountable for serious abuses.

The report, which assesses progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, also described an increasing number of threats and attacks on environmental and anti-mining advocates by the police and military as alarming.

At least 114 cases of extrajudicial murders have been reported since Aquino came to office in June 2010, although the number of reported cases last year was just 13.

The report says that the government has made little progress in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial murder, enforced disappearances and torture.

Since 2001, hundreds of what are termed politically left wing advocates, journalists, rights defenders and clergy have been murdered, allegedly by members of the military and police.

“If 2012 was the year for new laws promoting human rights, then 2013 should be the year for effective action,” Adams said.