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Political Violence

The Philippines is a functioning democracy with a flourishing civil society and a lively independent media. It is one of only a few countries in South-East Asia to have abolished the death penalty and has acceded to all the core UN Human Rights Treaties. It performs particularly strongly in areas such as gender equality and migrants rights.

However implementation of legislation designed to protect human rights is often poor. International concern has been expressed about the numbers of unexplained killings and disappearances in the Philippines, and the government’s apparent inability to address this problem. Killings with a suspected political motivation have decreased markedly over recent years, but there is still international concern about the lack of prosecutions and continued unexplained killings of suspected criminals.

Terrorist groups and criminal gangs operate in some regions of the country. Arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of state and non-state actors continue to be serious problems. Concerns about impunity persist. Members of the security services physically and psychologically abuse suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Pretrial detainees and convicts were often held in overcrowded, substandard conditions. Disappearances occurred, and arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed, and procedures were prolonged. Corruption was endemic. Leftist and human rights activists reported harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women, abuse of children, child sexual exploitation, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common.

Elections have led to acts of violence targeting particular candidates, especially candidates for local-level offices, but they typically do not result in civil disturbances or large-scale clashes by partisan groups. On November 23, 2009, the Republic suffered its worst instance of election-related violence when 57 people were killed in the province of Maguindanao in the Mindanao region. Various human rights groups condemned the mass killing, and in response, on December 4, 2009, then President Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1959 declaring martial law in the province of Maguindanao. Proclamation No. 1959 was recalled on December 12, 2009, lifting the declaration of martial law.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent government agency, investigated 53 new complaints of politically motivated killings involving 67 victims during the year 2010 alone. The CHR suspected personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in some killings of leftist activists operating in rural areas. Suspects in other cases were ordinary citizens or remained unknown.

For over 40 years, various rebel groups in the Republic have periodically fought against Government forces. The purported objective of many of these rebel groups is to effect the separation of the traditionally Muslim portions of Mindanao from the Republic. However, other groups such as the CPP are ostensibly focused on ideological objectives rather than territorial ambitions. The original Muslim separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front (the “MNLF”) has existed since at least the early 1970s and has splintered twice, leading to the formation of the MILF in 1976 and the Abu Sayyaf in 1991. Despite this fragmentation, the original MNLF persists to this day. However, armed conflict in recent years has primarily been between the Government and Abu Sayyaf, the MILF and communist rebels.

Peace talks between the government and the Mindanao-based insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are ongoing. The peace process had stalled in August 2008 after the Supreme Court placed a temporary restraining order on the signing of a preliminary peace accord and some MILF members attacked villages in central Mindanao and killed dozens of civilians in response. The ensuing fighting between government and insurgent forces caused both combat and civilian deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. In July 2009, both sides instituted ceasefires, ending nearly one year of intense fighting and enabling the parties to discuss a return to the negotiating table.

The New People's Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is responsible for general civil disturbance through assassinations of public officials, bombings, and other tactics. It frequently demands "revolutionary taxes" from local and, at times, foreign businesses and business people. To enforce its demands, the NPA sometimes attacks infrastructure such as power facilities, telecommunications towers, and bridges, mostly in Mindanao. The National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization which includes the Communist Party and its allies, has engaged in intermittent peace talks with the Philippine government. It has not targeted foreigners in recent years, but could threaten U.S. citizens engaged in business or property management activities. Terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayaaf Group and Jema’ah Islamiyah, periodically attack civilian targets in Mindanao, kidnap civilians for ransom, and engage in armed skirmishes with the security forces.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2017 19:36:25 ZULU