U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Philippines
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Philippines, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa641c.html [accessed 10 October 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
THE PHILIPPINESThe Philippines is a democratic republic with an elected president, a functioning political party system, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. However, political corruption remains endemic in many areas of government, including the electoral and law enforcement systems. The Government made progress in talks with insurgent groups. The judicial system suffers from both corruption and inefficiency. The Department of National Defense directs the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Department of Interior and Local Government has authority over the civilian Philippine National Police (PNP), whose role involves anti-insurgency efforts as well as normal police work. Despite its official external mission, the AFP became increasingly involved in local law enforcement. Security forces, including police, soldiers, and local civilian militias, committed human rights abuses. The Government is implementing a far-reaching economic reform program, Philippines 2000, to convert its agrarian-based economy into an industrial, market-driven one and attract foreign investment. The Government has succeeded in liberalizing the investment, trade, and foreign exchange regimes. Garments and electronics make up more than half of merchandise export receipts and are significantly complemented by overseas worker remittances totaling over $4 billion in 1997. Gross domestic product grew at approximately 5percent. While the Government has accelerated market reforms, poverty and inequitable income distribution remain, and the Government's social reform agenda has made little progress. About 36 percent of the population of 70 million have difficulty meeting basic nutritional and other needs, while the richest 20 percent of families received incomes over 10 times that of the lowest 20 percent. Annual per capita national income was estimated at $1,142 for the first 9 months of 1997. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Members of the security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other physical abuse of suspects, and arbitrary arrest and detention. Prison conditions are harsh and in some cases life threatening. According to the Government's Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the police continued to be the leading abusers of human rights. Some abuses were committed by police or military personnel involved in illegal activities, including coerced protection, kidnaping gangs, drug syndicates, and illegal logging. In some cases, police authorities appear to tacitly sanction police brutality and even collusion with killings as an expedient means to fight crime. The Government has taken few effective steps to reform the police, the military forces, or a court system that appears susceptible to the influence of the wealthy and powerful while not providing equal justice for others. There is a failure to prosecute many who break the law. The judiciary is inefficient, lacks sufficient staff, does not ensure expeditious trials, and suffers from corruption. The courts remain hobbled by backlogs and limited resources, and long delays in trials are common. There was a marked increase in the displacement of citizens, accompanied by physical assaults on communities (indigenous peoples, farm cooperatives or squatter groups). An estimated 4 million citizens living abroad remained disenfranchised because Congress has not yet enacted absentee voting, as required by the Constitution. Violence and discrimination against women and abuse of children continued to be serious problems. Discrimination against indigenous people and Muslims persists, although the Mindanao peace process is addressing the latter problems in many communities. Legislation passed in October is expected to provide improved protection for indigenous people. Rural poverty and family displacement worsened a persistent child labor problem, which the Government took steps to address. To promote respect for human rights, the Commission on Human Rights, a governmental body, organized a system of over 6,000 locality (barangay) human rights officers to monitor local authorities and report complaints. Communist and Muslim insurgent groups committed abuses, including extrajudicial killings, kidnapings, torture, and detentions.