BRUSSELS – A small group held a protest in Belgium's capital over what it believes is the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines.
Four people holding placards showing the face of President Aquino stood calmly outside the gate of Val Deuchesse, waiting for the Philippine leader.
The protesting quartet, composed of two men and two women, turned out to be from Migrante International. One of the protesters introduced himself as Reverend Cesar Taguba.
Taguba said Aquino must leave his office now. He also slammed the idea of a term extension for the president.
"We cannot tolerate the...incompetence, neglect, puppetry as well as impunity in terms of human rights," he said.
President Aquino was scheduled to deliver a policy speech for the event that was organized by the Egmont Institute, a think-tank group based in Belgium.
The event was held in Val Deuchess, an old edifice which has played an important role in negotiations for Belgian and European politics after World War II.
Inside Val Deuchess, Aquino shared the gains and challenges that his administration achieved. The issue of human rights, however, still hounded him.
A man in the crowd who introduced himself as part of human rights group Intel asked President Aquino if Oplan: Bayanihan - an internal defense program formulated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines - will not be a threat to activists and doctors.
Aquino pointed out that retired major general Jovito Palparan, who is accused by activists of various human rights violations, is under arrest.
"One of the foremost human rights violators or accused, alleged human rights violators, in the person of General Palparan, who used to be a member of our Armed Forces, has recently been arrested and presently incarcerated and undergoing trial," he said.
He even volunteered to discuss the issue of media killings, explaining that it is not the Philippine government's policy to encourage any transgression of the law.
Still, Aquino assured that government is investigating all allegations. He also reiterated his position that not all journalists died in the line of duty.
Aquino pointed out that to understand the context of reported media killings, one needs to look if a media practitioner died because he was doing an investigative work, was exercising his profession in a responsible manner, or if he had been involved in a non-job related feud.
"In our culture when somebody dies, one does not talk about his own transgression, that were not necessarily related to his job. In the absence of our stating what happened in a particular case, it is assumed that which is ah… propagandize as the actual reason for the person's demise," he said.
He also noted that the executive department is faced with constraints and limitations in going after human rights violators and criminals.
"Now, in our system also, the judicial branch is not directly under my office. We operate on three separate branches and, for instance, the so-called Maguindanao massacre is also a source of frustration for the executive department. There are 58 counts of homicide and murder on that particular case and over a hundred accused and we are still in the process of arresting some of the others accused," he said.
The President also explained that the Philippines has an adversarial system of justice and it takes a long time to be able to present the personal circumstances to accuse each one of a specific action.