A 'Culture of Impunity'

Manila Bulletin, September 18, 2009 | Go to article overview

A 'Culture of Impunity'


The term impunity is used to describe a situation where it is seemingly “impossible to bring perpetrators of violations to account” or “exemption from penalty, punishment or legal sanction for perpetrators of illegal acts.” The international organization, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), the Ateneo University Law Center, and several other human rights groups concur that indeed a “culture of impunity” exists in the present environment. CPJ’s Impunity Index ranked the Philippines 6th out of the 14 nations with the highest rates of impunity. It is the highest ranking country in the index among the so-called peacetime democracies, outranking two countries in the throes of full-blown armed conflict – Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to FFFJ, only 3 out of the 40 criminal cases filed in courts since 2001 have been resolved, but, partially, because only the perpetrators were convicted while the masterminds are still at large. The Ateneo Law Center suggests a framework on impunity in its publications on Human Rights and Treatises on the Legal and Judicial Aspects of Impunity.Here are some of the recommendations of CPJ’s Impunity Campaign Section to governments – “to take hard steps to gain convictions by assigning sufficient prosecutors and investigators, moving trials to safe and impartial venues, protecting witnesses, and providing high-level political backing for these efforts. FFFJ’s legal counsel reports that their eight active cases have petitioned for venue change or have been transferred from the local courts to the Manila or Cebu regional trial courts like in the recent transfer of the Marlene Esperat case to the Makati trial court.In various parts of the world, NGOs are beginning to take more action against continuing human rights abuses – through advocacy, research, and information exchange. “Impunity Watch”, a special program of a Dutch development organization was established to conduct research and to monitor state compliance with legal obligations towards victims of crimes. …

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