Writing in the Herald last Friday, Murray Horton of the Philippines Solidarity Network urges Prime Minister John Key to raise the issue of human rights in the Philippines and calls on him to tell President Benigno S. Aquino III to make the country an "actual" democracy.

Mr Horton then claims that nothing has changed under the administration of President Aquino.

Mr Horton's views resemble misinformation commonly being disseminated by a number of individuals and organisations with ties to extreme leftist elements in the Philippines.

The truth is, President Aquino has done much to battle corruption in the country, including revitalising important government institutions that fight corruption such as the Department of Justice, the Commission on Audit, Office of the Ombudsman, and the Philippine Supreme Court.


In the case of the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court, this involved the impeachment, trial, and removal from office of the Ombudsman and the Chief Justice - both of whom were appointed by President Aquino's predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - who is now herself in government custody and awaiting trial for various charges of corruption.

There has also been a significant improvement in the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Private armies are being dismantled, as in the case in the province of Abra where local armed groups have surrendered to the Philippine National Police. In the Northern Philippines, the Cordillera People's Liberation Army laid down their arms and signed an agreement that ended 25 years of insurgency in 2011.

Then there is the case of General Jovito Palparan, an Armed Forces officer who had been widely accused of summary executions during the term of Arroyo, and was publicly extolled by the former president during her 2006 state of the nation address before Congress.

Under President Aquino, General Palparan has been charged for human rights abuses and is now a fugitive from the law. Meanwhile, land reform is also being undertaken by the Department of Agrarian Reform, which is in the process of distributing large tracts of land, including an estate owned by the family of the President. And just last week President Aquino's administration signed an historic agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to end one of the world's longest running internal conflicts.

The changes in the Philippines under President Aquino are undeniable to the objective observer. We suggest that human rights groups take a closer and a more objective look at what is happening to our country.

*Ramon A. Carandang is secretary of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office in Manila.