Corruption, weak rule of law roots of RP problems — US

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 06/01/2008

DESPITE A LONG TRADITION of democracy, the Philippines remains “vulnerable to political turmoil, recurring attempts to use extraconstitutional means to resolve leadership crises, human rights abuses and concerns about credibility of elections,” according to a United States state department report.

In “Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports 2008” released on May 23, the US Department of State said corruption and weak rule of law continued to be the underlying factors exacerbating this vulnerability.

It said that while the Philippine government generally respected the human rights of its people, there continued to be serious problems in certain areas, particularly extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and forced disappearances.

In 2007 the government intensified its efforts to investigate and prosecute these cases, and there has been a significant decrease in the number of killings and disappearances, the report noted.

It said high voter turnout in the 2007 national and local elections, which was marred by violence and fraud, demonstrated the country’s continuing commitment to the democratic process as 99 percent of the 17,000 seats available nationwide were filled without controversy.

It commended civil society monitoring groups in the country for playing an active role as poll watchers to ensure fairer election counts.

To counter these problems, the report said, US-funded programs currently support civil society initiatives that monitor election tabulation; allow NGOs to monitor campaign finance in selected electoral contests and media reporting, and assist electoral modernization efforts in preparation for local and national elections.

It said the US Embassy in Manila coordinated and deployed a multi-agency team of 86 American officials to observe the May 2007 national elections, an initiative that clearly demonstrated to the Philippine electorate the US government’s strong support of a free and fair democratic process.

“The Philippines has struggled with EJKs and forced disappearances for most of its modern history. US government officials use every opportunity to convey the message that these killings and disappearances must cease and must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted,” the report said.

In support of this priority, assistance programs are underway to build the capacity of journalists to report credibly, accurately and professionally on human rights violations; to strengthen the justice sector’s effectiveness in prosecuting cases of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and to professionalize the security forces, the report said.

Other points the paper made were:

The US government also provides assistance to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and the courts to investigate, prosecute and convict human rights abusers and to devise strategies to prevent future abuses.

To encourage respect for due process among members of the armed forces, various US military assistance programs help to strengthen the professionalism, commitment to human rights and discipline of the Philippine military.(PDI)

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