MANILA — Shortly after he delivered a policy speech in Belgium, President Benigho Aquino III was confronted with his administration’s human rights record.
Four protesters from Migrante Europe welcomed his convoy at the entrance of Château of Val-Duchesse on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time).
During the open forum, a participant noted that the government’s revised counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, seems to “endanger” the lives of the President’s own people.
“Well, those are blanket statements and we don’t necessarily agree with them,” said President Aquino during the forum initiated by the Egmont Institute.
He added, “It is not our policy to encourage or even abet any transgressions of the law. And towards that end, we have been investigating all of these allegations. We have adopted a policy that their only deterrence to crime is the certainty of punishment.”
The President also cited the arrest of former Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is currently in the custody of the policy for the disappearance of two student activist.
He also recognized that the current justice system of the country is slow, but he assured that the government is doing its best to address all the crimes.
“But we do have to work with the tools that we have on hand,” he said. “We have an adversarial system of justice and it takes such a long time to be able to present the personal circumstances to accuse each one of a specific action and wheels of justice would hopefully move faster than what they are doing now,” the President added.
He noted as well the task force that was created solely to focus on extrajudicial killings.
“We have adopted a policy that their only deterrence to crime is the certainty of punishment,” he said.
Of 54 cases of media killings, some of which happened prior to his term, he said there had been 10 cases of conviction.
With regard to the media killings, the President said that not all are related to the job.
“For instance, in the media killings, some who used to work in media died. Did they die because they were investigative journalists? Were they exercising their profession in a responsible manner, living up to journalistic ethics? Or did they perish because of other reasons?” he said.