HRW sent a 10-question human rights survey to the five presidential candidates on March 21. Responses will be posted on the website in late April.
“The Philippines’ next president will inherit immense human rights problems requiring leadership and commitment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Filipino voters should demand to hear from their presidential candidates exactly what they would do to protect and strengthen human rights.”
The election is slated for May 9. The Philippine constitution allows a president a single six-year term. President Benigno Aquino III, in office since 2010, is barred from running for re-election. The five candidates seeking to succeed Aquino have formed election tickets, each with a vice presidential candidate.
The Human Rights Watch questionnaire seeks responses on “death squad” killings; torture; attacks against journalists; accountability of state security forces; rights of indigenous peoples; reproductive health rights; displacement caused by conflict; and the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, among other subjects.
Adams said they will publish the candidates’ responses to the questionnaire to provide Filipino voters with the views of each candidate on human rights issues of key national concern.
Here is the questionnaire sent by HRW to Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, Rodrigo Duterte, Jejomar Binay and Miriam Defensor-Santiago:
1. What are the most important areas of progress in human rights in the Philippines in the past decade?
2. What are the biggest human rights challenges facing the country?
3. How should the government deal with the problem of impunity, by which members of the security forces implicated in serious abuses go unpunished?
4. What actions should be taken to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, the so-called Lumads around the country, particularly in Mindanao?
5. What is your view of the Reproductive Health Law? The recent decision of Congress to delete specific budgetary allocations for the delivery of family-planning services to poor families has prevented the law from being implemented.
6. How do you think the government should deal with killings of journalists, many of them in apparent retaliation for reporting on corruption and poor governance?
7. How will you address the summary killings by so-called death squads, some having links to local authorities, in urban centers across the Philippines?
8. Years after the passage in 2009 of the anti-torture law, not one perpetrator of torture has been convicted even as reports of torture by state security forces continue to surface. What actions should be taken to ensure that this law is enforced?
9. How will you address the plight of tens of thousands of Filipinos who remain displaced as a result of armed conflict between government and rebel forces, specifically in Zamboanga City and the provinces of Maguindanao, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur?
10. What steps should the government take to address the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines, which some experts say is the worst in the region, if not the world?
“The upcoming presidential election is crucial if the Philippines is to end pervasive abuses and impunity and become a genuinely rights-respecting country,” Adams said. “When Filipinos go to the polls on May 9, they will want to know where the candidates stand on these critical concerns.”