MANILA, Philippines - The 138,825-member Philippine National Police (PNP) has deep-rooted institutional deficiencies and continues to suffer from a widely held and accurate public perception that corruption remains a problem, according to the latest annual US State Department human rights report on the Philippines.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 released yesterday by the State Department and transmitted to the US Congress assessed each country’s situation against universal human rights standards, during each calendar year, and each report stands on its own.
The report said the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service remained largely ineffective.
“Members of the PNP were regularly accused of torture, soliciting bribes, and other illegal acts,” although efforts continued “to reform and professionalize the institution through improved training, expanded community outreach, and pay raises implemented in June,” the report said.
On arbitrary arrest and detention, the law requires a judicial determination of probable cause before issuance of an arrest warrant and prohibits holding prisoners incommunicado or in secret places of detention.
“However, in a number of cases, police and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily,” the report said.
During the year, the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) documented 71 cases of illegal arrest and detention involving 97 victims.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) tracked 27 cases of arbitrary arrest involving 57 victims and 46 cases of illegal detention involving 72 victims.
The law requires a judicial determination of probable cause before issuance of an arrest warrant and prohibits holding prisoners incommunicado or in secret places of detention; however, in a number of cases, police and the AFP arrested and detained citizens arbitrarily.
The report said civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the PNP and AFP, although the government had insufficient mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption.
From January to August, there were 238 administrative cases filed against 238 policemen, including administrative officials and officers, for various human rights violations.
Of the cases filed, 54 were resolved, and 162 were undergoing summary proceedings as of August.
The PNP dismissed three individuals in connection with these cases.
The AFP Human Rights Office, on the other hand, continued to monitor and review alleged human rights abuse involving members of the military.
During the year, the AFP Human Rights Office investigated 59 reported incidents of human rights violations involving 18 AFP personnel and 24 units.
Of these incidents, 22 occurred during the year, including four concerning killings; five, torture/illegal detention/illegal arrest; five, harassment/threats/abuse of authority; and eight, child rights violation/occupation of schools.
Investigations conducted for human rights violations committed during the year resulted in four dishonorable discharges and 10 personnel undergoing general court-martial proceedings or hearings with the Efficiency and Separation Board.
During the year, the Office of the Ombudsman received 344 cases involving military and law enforcement officers allegedly committing human rights abuses; the cases included killings, injuries, arbitrary detention or unlawful arrest, and torture, and most were filed against low-ranking police and military officials. As of year’s end all cases were under investigation.
The police and military routinely provided human rights training to their members, augmented by training from the CHR.
In February, the AFP began to overhaul the education and training of soldiers as directed by its 2010 plan.
The AFP also continued to adhere to 2005 Presidential Memorandum Order Number 259, which states that human rights- and international humanitarian law-related subjects must be incorporated in all AFP education and training courses and undertaken by all officers and enlisted personnel.
Completion of these training courses is required for recruitment, entry, promotion, reassignment, designation, and foreign schooling.
The PNP maintained a network of 1,744 human rights desk officers at the national, regional, provincial, and municipal levels.
The CHR continued to note that senior PNP officials appeared receptive to respecting the human rights of detainees, but rank-and-file awareness of detainee rights remained inadequate.
Cooperation and coordination between police and prosecutors, however, remained limited.
Human rights groups and the CHR continued to note little progress in implementing and enforcing reforms aimed at improving the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions of suspected human-rights violations, such as the July 2010 Justice Department Memo Circular to guide prosecutor-police cooperation in the investigation of political and media killings.
The report said funding for the main government witness protection program managed by the Department of Justice remained inadequate, and the CHR did not receive funding for its separate witness protection program during the year.
Potential witnesses were at times unable to obtain protection due to funding constraints or procedural delays.
Government-armed civilian militias supplemented the AFP and PNP; the AFP held operational control of Citizens’ Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU), while the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) fell under PNP command.
“These paramilitary units often received minimal training and were poorly monitored, tracked, and regulated. Some politicians and clan leaders, particularly in Mindanao, maintained their own private armies and at times co-opted CVO and CAFGU members into these armies,” the report said.
Human rights NGOs linked state-backed militias and private armies with numerous human rights abuses, including the 2009 massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao.
The prosecution of that case continued to proceed slowly due to its complexities and justice system inefficiencies.
“Such delays continued the perception of impunity for national, provincial, and local government actors accused of human rights abuses,” the report said.