FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILIPPINES: Rotten criminal justice system victimizes every Filipino, new report says
(Hong Kong, March 10, 2007) The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) launched on Friday a new report describing how the rotten criminal justice system in the Philippines fails to deliver justice to its people and contributes to the widespread human rights violations in the country.
The 192-page report, "The criminal justice system of the Philippines is rotten", describes how the police and courts fail to investigate and solve various human rights violations because of the lack of sincerity, despite well-established institutions on papers. It calls for the government to reform the criminal justice system and fulfil the promises it made to the Filipinos in the laws.
"The Philippines has one of the best constitutions, but the criminal justice system is subverted," Basil Fernando, executive director of the Hong Kong-based regional rights group, said on the report's release.
"Not only activists are targeted, common people also suffer. The entire people of the Philippines are targeted under this rotten system. Even in a case of common murder, it is unlikely that any investigation or prosecution is carried out," Fernando said.
Professor Michael Davis from the Chinese University of Hong Kong said, “institutions alone are not enough, political will is needed for human rights protection, that is what the Philippines lacks."
The report contains 110 cases of killing, torture disappearance, abduction, illegal arrest and intimidation, which the Asian Human Rights Commission, the sister organization of ALRC, documented since 2004. Among the cases, 81 of them related to killing, but none of them has been solved so far.
The killing of Bishop Ramento of the Philippine Independent Church is among them. He had actively campaigned to stop extra-judicial killings. He was killed in last October in his parish, after receiving numerous death threats.
Aldos Ramento, son of Bishop Ramento, spoke about his father's death. "The issue right now about my father's case is that they (the police) do not consider it as extra-judicial killing, but claim it is a plain robbery and homicide," said Ramento.
"My family and church members do not believe such claim, we believe it is just a cover-up,” Ramento added. He also provided details of irregularities in investigation of the case.
The ALRC report analyses why the criminal justice system in the Philippines fails to function. It identifies as including “command irresponsibility”, the non-existent witness protection programme, the bias of state officers towards victims and their families, and the irregularities in investigation and prosecution .
"An effective criminal justice system is a basic element of democracy. However, there is a virtual impunity in the Philippines now with the collapse of law enforcement," Fernando added.
The report introduce a list of recommendations, calling for the set up of an independent commission to review the criminal justice system, implementation of the witness and victim protection scheme, strengthening investigation agencies handling complaints against military and police.
"The military should be held responsible what they do, the government has responsibility under international human rights law to do so," Davis added.
The ALRC is distributing copies of the report very widely, including different organizations in the Philippines and abroad.
"By exposing the crisis in the country, we hope the report will serve as a starting point for new thinking and discussions in the civil society and international community on the rotten criminal justice system in the Philippines," Fernando added.
It is the first lengthy report exclusively on the Philippines published by the ALRC.
The report, which is published as the February edition of the organisation's bimonthly periodical, article 2, is available online at: www.article2.org.
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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.
Posted on 2007-03-10