THE Philippines made gains in investigating and persecuting human rights abuses, but concerns about impunity and extrajudicial killings remained, the United States 2014 Report on Human Rights in the Philippines said.
In a statement released by the US Embassy in Manila, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said he is encouraged by the cooperation he sees between Washington and Manila, but highlighted the need to do more.
"Extrajudicial killings remain foremost among the human rights challenges in the Philippines. I am encouraged by the interagency cooperation within the Philippine government to address impunity, but more remains to be done," he added.
The 2014 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, which came out on Thursday, identified the "significant" human rights challenges faced by the Philippines.
These are extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances "undertaken by security forces and suspected vigilante groups."
"Killings of activists, judicial officials, local government leaders, and journalists by anti-government insurgents continued to be a serious problem," the report said.
According to "reliable" information gathered for the report, from January to September 2015, the Philippines had five confirmed disappearances and four journalists killed.
At least two of the four journalists were killed while on duty.
It added that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigated 45 new complaints of politically motivated killings involving 61 alleged victims as of September.
Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were suspected to be involved in some of the disappearances and killings, the report said.
The Task Force Usig (TFU), responsible for investigating and monitoring killings of media members, labor activists, and foreigners, received reports of 16 new cases from January to August.
The TFU used a different criteria from the CHR to determine the cases' merits.
Aside from disappearances and extrajudicial killings, the report also noted that the Philippines is burdened by its weak criminal justice system that is "notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators," a meager record of prosecutions and lengthy procedural delays, and widespread official corruption and abuse of power.
Other human rights problems in the country were identified, too: allegations of prisoner/detainee torture and abuse by security forces; harassment, including allegations of violence against human rights activists by local security forces; warrantless arrests; lengthy pretrial detentions; and overcrowded and inadequate prison conditions.
Also cited were killings and harassment of journalists; internally displaced persons (IDPs); violence against women; abuse and sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; limited access to facilities for persons with disabilities; lack of full integration of indigenous people; absence of law and policy to protect persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; child labor; and ineffective enforcement of worker rights.
"The government continued to investigate and prosecute only a limited number of reported human rights abuses, and concerns about impunity persisted," the report said.
It also touched on the long-running conflict and communist insurgencies in Mindanao that continued because of the "displacement of civilians and the killing of soldiers and police in armed clashes."
Terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as elements associated with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), including the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), continued to kill security forces, local government officials, and other civilians, the report said.
It added that the MILF conducted military operations against government security forces and civilians.
"These organizations reportedly continued to engage in kidnappings for ransom, bombings that caused civilian casualties, the use of child soldiers in combat or auxiliary roles, and operated unauthorized courts," the report said.
Although the MILF and the government signed a comprehensive peace pact that would establish, among others, an autonomous political entity known as Bangsamoro, on March 27 last year, other groups such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the BIFF do not consider themselves bound by the agreement. (CVB/Sunnex)