The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday expressed disappointment with three presidential candidates–Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte and Grace Poe–for their failure to respond to a questionnaire on key human rights issues facing the Philippines.
HRW sent 10 questions to all five presidential hopefuls on March 21 and sought responses by April 15, a deadline that was extended to April 21.
Topics covered include accountability for abuses by state security forces, ending torture, indigenous people’s rights, killing of journalists, HIV/AIDS and internal displacement.
The responses of Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd and Miriam Defensor-Santiago were submitted by April 15.
No response was received from the other three candidates.
HRW said all candidates should take a stand on human rights in the remaining days of the campaign period.
“Human rights are critically important in the Philippines so it’s important to learn what the candidates have to say about them,” Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said.
“The candidates who responded to the questionnaire are helping Filipino voters better understand the country’s problems, and the steps that can be taken to address them,” Adams added.
According to HRW, human rights have not figured prominently in the media coverage of the campaign or in two of the three presidential debates.
Much of the discussion focused on allegations that Duterte, as mayor of Davao City, was complicit in the operations of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which is linked to hundreds of killings of suspected criminals.
“Human rights and justice go to the heart of how a government should be run,” Adams said.
HRW acknowledged that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has presided over some positive developments on human rights, such as the passage of the Reproductive Health law.
The organization, however, said “impunity persists for extra-judicial killings and torture linked to elements of the military and the police. Killings of journalists continue.