Philippines: Killing of massacre witness casts shadow on UN human rights review
AI index: ASA 35/003/2012
1 June 2012
third killing of a witness to the 2009 Maguindanao massacre was reported the
same week that the UN Human Rights Council reviewed the human rights record of
29 May 2012, UN member states met in Geneva to discuss the Universal Periodic
Review of the Philippines. Every four and a half years, the human rights record
of each 193 member state is reviewed in this process.
body of Esmail Amil Enog, the third witness to the Maguindanao massacre to be
killed, was discovered chain-sawed to pieces in March, a Philippine prosecutor
announced on 31 May 2012. Enog had testified in court that he had been the
driver for gunmen implicated in the massacre.
the killing of Esmail Amil Enog, Amnesty International urged the Philippine
government to ensure adequate witness protection and effective prosecutions for
extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
“The killing and
dismembering of another witness in the Maguindanao massacre speaks of a poor
witness protection program in our country. This sows fear and discourages
witnesses to testify on crimes occurring in the Philippines. The killing of
Enog also casts doubt on the Philippine government’s ability to bring murderers to justice and to deal swiftly
and resolutely with grave human rights violations such as the Maguindanao
massacre,” said Dr. Aurora Parong,
Director of Amnesty International Philippines.
Further, Dr. Parong
said, “The police must investigate with due diligence the killing of Esmail
Enog so that the perpetrator will be brought to justice. It is only through the
prosecution of the killer that we can help witnesses overcome their fears when
they testify against criminals.”
2009 Maguindanao massacre was the largest-ever single attack on journalists and
media workers in world history. On 23 November 2009, 57 people in an opposition
candidate’s electoral caravan were killed by a private armed group whose
members were linked to the provincial governor.
the UN session in Geneva, Australia called on the Philippines to ensure
accountability for the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre. Canada urged the
Philippines to disarm and disband all private militias, and the United States
called for full military and police control over armed civilian units, namely
Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) and Civilian Volunteer
promises made after the massacre when he was a presidential candidate,
President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino has failed to revoke Executive Order 546,
which has been used to authorize the operations of armed civilian units. Spain
and the Netherlands both urged the Philippine government to revoke the order.
“ Private armies continue to operate, almost 3
years after the Maguindanao massacre. We have seen the disastrous role of the
private armies in the Maguindanao massacre. President Aquino should revoke Executive
Order 546 at once,” said Dr. Parong.
UN member states noted a decline in extrajudicial executions and enforced
disappearances, but expressed concern about ongoing impunity for these crimes.
Out of the 64 states that participated in the Philippines session, 29 provided
recommendations on ensuring justice for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial
killings. The United Kingdom, in particular, voiced concerns about judicial
independence and slow convictions for human rights violations.
bill to criminalize enforced disappearances has passed both houses of the
Philippine Congress, and awaits enactment into law. Brazil called on the
Philippines to ratify the UN treaty against enforced disappearances, and to
enshrine criminal penalties in domestic law to criminalize enforced
Philippine Congress has yet to vote on a reproductive health bill which would
remove barriers to healthcare and services, including safe contraception. Seven
UN member states expressed concern about reproductive health or maternal
mortality. Switzerland called on the Philippines to enact and implement the
bill and provide necessary financial resources for its implantation.
UN member states commended the Philippines for proposing to formulate a new
National Human Rights Action Plan. Amnesty International noted that this was
promised in 2008, but the Aquino administration has yet to produce the action
International commended the Philippines for enacting legislation to tackle serious
human rights abuses, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009, but noted that
implementation is lacking. France called on the Philippines to implement a
national preventive mechanism against torture, like those provided in the
Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT), which the
Philippines ratified in April 2012.
Philippines has already accepted 45 of the recommendations made to it in the
UPR Working Group. It has taken a number
of recommendations under consideration, including some of those referred to
above. Amnesty International strongly urges the government to not only signal
its explicit support of these recommendations but also to give effect to them