Archive for February 14, 2012


Philippines needs a heart to protect its gems

(A Statement on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders)

February 14, 2012

In this month of love and affection, the Philippine government needs a heart to protect its gems – the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).  HRDs are gems of precious value.  They abound in the depths of human longings.  That is, the protection and defense of the dignity of person.  They are cultivated by natural desires of loving peace and respect; tested by concrete experiences of grief and sufferings; of joys and happiness in ushering individual and community empowerment and development. HRDs are gems personified.  They check the balance of power with the scale of justice.  They keep sanity of the ‘wannabes’ from the lures of corruption and tyranny.  They call for peace in times of war.

Their noble desire to promote the well-being of all has prompted the United Nations to pass Resolution A/RES/53/144 otherwise known as the “Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms or the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” in 1998.  It recognizes the importance and legitimacy of their works and their vital role in engaging governments on human rights issues.  Even as they find their own rights flagrantly violated, they remain “STEADFAST IN PROTEST” amid the worldwide trends of:

1)     Restrictions of the enjoyment of rights through policy enactments and legislations;

2)     Increasing restrictions to the right to expression and opinion;

3)     Women HRDs are increasingly targeted for who they are and for their work;

4)     Continuing threats to the independence and effectiveness of National human rights institutions,

The Philippines is a rich source of human rights defenders.  So rich that those hit by their brilliance aspire to shred them into pieces, threat their existence and plot all legal and extra-judicial ways to silence them.  This is the current case of Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie – a Human Rights Defender slapped with various charges from allegedly masterminding assassination plots to bombing the City of Jolo.  These accusations emanate from his being vocal on the policies and actions of the local government that violate human rights in Sulu.

Extra-judicial executions, torture, intimidation, harassment and vilification of organizations are just some realities of human rights work and human rights defenders in the Philippines.  With these realities, is an urgent call on the government to take to heart its primary responsibility and duty on the situation of HRDs.  To wit: “Each State has a prime responsibility and duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms, inter alia, by adopting such step as maybe necessary to create all conditions necessary in the social, economic, political and other fields, as well as the legal guarantees required to ensure that all persons under its jurisdiction, individually or in association with others, are able to enjoy all those rights and freedoms in practice” (UN Declaration on HRD, 1998, Art. 2).  With this Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas calls for:

  • an urgent enactment of legislative policies protecting human rights and development workers;
  • mainstreaming human rights in governance through the use of rights-based approach;
  • ensuring the independence and integrity of the judiciary; and,
  • Putting in place protection programmes to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of defenders from attacks and threats.

 

 

Situation of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) worldwide

February 14, 2012 .Quezon City

Criminalization” of Human Rights Defenders Condemned

 

Human rights groups here raised anew an alarm and condemned a global pattern of repression of human rights defenders and as also being experienced in the Philippines

 In a press conference co-sponsored by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP), the said organizations pointed out the widespread campaign especially in developing countries ruled by either civilian and/or military dictators.  One devious pattern is the “criminalization” of persons who defend the poor, vulnerable and marginalized against repressive governance and impoverishing development.

 One of the victims presented by Mr. Max de Mesa, Chairperson of PAHRA, was Mr.  Ales Bialitski from Belarus presently imprisoned since November 24, 2011 in his own country for promoting human rights..  Bialitski is the Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH ) and President of the Belarusian Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Viasna).  PAHRA is the Philippine member of FIDH.

“Any opposition to a repressive regime or authority,” de Mesa said, “will be branded as a crime, including the promotion and defence of human rights.”  “This we experienced during the Marcos dictatorship,” the PAHRA Chairperson continued.  Ales was convicted of alleged tax evasion.

Ms. Rita Melencio, TFDP Deputy for Operations, stated that “the cases of both Mr. Ales Bialitski and Mr. Temogen Tulawie expose the same oftentimes political character of the prosecution and persecution of human rights defenders.”  Tulawie’s advocacies included protecting people in Sulu against abuses during military operations as in the Ipil massacre,  and demanding justice and accountability for moro women victims of rape.  Charges of alleged assassination attempts was filed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.  Tulawie is presently detained in Davao.

“Also those who defend economic, social and cultural rights,” according to Dr. Nymia Simbulan, Professor of U.P. Manila and Executive Director of PhilRights, “become subject of trumped up charges to silence their active defence of these rights.”  She cited the arrest of leaders and members of indigenous peoples’ communities resisting development aggression in large-scale mining, as well as those urban poor leaders asserting their right to housing against illegal demolitions.

Finally, Dr. Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas, called on all present to “become human rights defenders and stand for human rights as our common preferred values.” Adding, “after all, this administration has declared adherence to the primacy of human rights.”

%d bloggers like this: