9 February 2010

The worst pre-election violencein Philippine history – the Maguindanao massacre – has focused globalattention on the human rights situation in the country. Now more than ever,candidates in the 10 May presidential elections need to clarify how theywill address key human rights issues facing the country.

Today as the presidential campaignperiod officially begins, Amnesty International calls on all of the presidentialcandidates to make clear, public commitments on the actions they will takein the first 100 days of office to address serious human rights violations.In a public letter to the candidates, Amnesty International called on themto affirm their commitment to:

1) Revoke Executive Order546, and ensure full accountability over all state-sponsored militias andparamilitary groups.

Despite the mass killing of63 civilians on 23 November in Maguindanao, members of state-armed localgroups and private armies are still free to operate in other parts of thecountry The Philippine government’s continued failure to establish accountabilityfor members of these armed groups undermines the rule of law and denieshuman rights protection for civilians.

Within 100 days, the new Philippinepresident should revoke Executive Order 546, which allows for militia andparamilitary groups to provide active support in counterinsurgency operations.In practice, these groups have been ill-trained, unaccountable, poorlyintegrated into the military chain of command, and responsible for serioushuman rights violations. In some provinces, Civilian Volunteer Organizations(CVOs) effectively as private armies for local politicians, heighteningthe risk of pre-election violence.

2) Establish a presidentialcommission aimed at preventing and prosecuting enforced disappearancesand extrajudicial executions.

In the last decade, at least200 Filipinos have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and as manyas 1,100 have been executed in political killings. The incoming presidentneeds to establish an impartial and independent commission to review thesecases, with the aim of enabling timely and effective investigations and,where warranted, prosecutions.

The new president should initiatelegislation that specifically criminalizes enforced disappearances andextrajudicial executions. He or she should sign the UN Convention for theProtection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

3) Order the administrationto fully implement the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement inorder to ensure the safety and well-being of the displaced.

Despite the ceasefire in Mindanao,more than 125,000 people remain displaced by the 2008 armed conflict alone.To address this grave humanitarian situation, the incoming president shouldpublicly instruct the administration to ensure that policies comply withthe UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Under the Guiding Principles,the government must ensure that the displaced are provided with adequatefood, water, shelter, and clothing, as well as essential healthcare andsanitation. It must also guarantee unimpeded humanitarian access to areasunder its control. In addition, the government must implement a sustainableplan of action so that the displaced can return to their villages, safelyand voluntarily.

As commander-in-chief, thenew president will be directly responsible for ensuring that the armedforces comply with international humanitarian law. As a core principle,this law explicitly prohibits direct or indiscriminate attacks againstcivilians, and this includes displaced persons and all other non-combatants.