The human rights challenge

This won’t sit well with the daang matuwid administration, but the US State Department has just released a report that ranks corruption and abuse of power among the most significant human rights problems in the Philippines.
Every year, as mandated by US law, the State Department comes up with a report on the human rights situation in every country. The 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released the other day, noted that the Philippines continued to be plagued by human rights problems.
The significant problems, according to the report, include extrajudicial killings, a “dysfunctional” criminal justice system and “widespread official corruption and abuse of power.” While elections last year were generally free and fair, vote buying was widespread, according to the report, and  “dynastic political families continued to monopolize elective offices at the national and local level.”
Other problems cited in the report were the killings and harassment of journalists and human rights activists, torture of detainees, enforced disappearances and warrantless arrests, inadequate prison facilities, human trafficking, violence against women and children, child labor and weak enforcement of laws on workers’ rights, and gender discrimination.
While investigations of human rights abuses were launched, the cases covered were limited and prosecution was weak, allowing impunity to persist, according to the report. The government generally respected judicial independence, the report observed, but added that “corruption through nepotism, personal connections, and sometimes bribery continued to result in impunity for wealthy or influential offenders.” Inadequate facilities and a shortage of judges also weakened the judicial system, the report noted.
President Aquino personally continues to enjoy a high degree of trust in his commitment to fight corruption. But he will have to do more to dispel perceptions that he is the only one following the straight path. The State Department report is just the latest example of perceptions that the reforms of daang matuwid are not spreading throughout the government. Making reforms take root is as significant a challenge as achieving inclusive growth.