Category: From Network


I. GLOBAL TRENDS

If each year could be associated with a right, 2011 was undoubtedly the year of freedom of assembly. The uprisings now collectively referred to as the Arab Spring that began in North Africa in late 2010, spread throughout the region during the year. Well after the dramatic regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, mass protests continued in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen,Saudi Arabia and Syria, where a particularly brutal repression, still ongoing, attracted unanimous condemnation internationally as well as sanctions from the Arab League.

Inspired by the Arab Spring and exasperated by decades of corrupt authoritarian government, civil society mobilised in many countries in other regions of the world, particularly in Africa.  Protests, either linked to elections or to high commodity prices, erupted in Angola, Malawi, Swaziland, and Uganda – to name but a few. In Angola, demonstrations started in March to protest against the 32-year rule of President dos Santos. The demonstrations, which continued with varied intensity throughout the year, were met with unnecessary and disproportionate force by the police, which also violently prevented journalists from covering the events.

Though protests did not develop as intensely in other regions, regimes in Asia were worried enough to restrict their laws and regulations. Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Malaysia were in the process of passing new restrictive legislation. In Malaysia, the House of Representatives passed the Peaceful Assembly Bill, which outlaws street protests and authorises police to impose conditions, including time, date, and venue. Organisers of unauthorised assemblies would face hefty fines. At the time of writing, the bill remained pending in the Senate. China responded to anonymous online calls for protests by disappearing up to two dozen human rights defenders and questioning and threatening scores of others.

Instances of violent dispersal of protests and refusal of permission to hold assemblies also occurred in many countries in Europe and Central Asia, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Serbia, and Uzbekistan. In the latter, faced with a de facto ban on protests, human rights defenders challenged the authorities and organised several small demonstrations: they were violently dispersed by the police, participants were arrested, questioned and sentenced to the payment of fines. Protests were also violently dispersed in Latin America. In Cuba, in particular, the authorities launched a crackdown reminiscent of the 2003 mass arrests of human rights defenders, pro-democracy and political activists.

Against this backdrop, the creation by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the new mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and of association was very welcome. It is hoped that it will contribute to better protection of human rights defenders worldwide, and that it will elicit more cooperation from states than the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders has so far enjoyed.

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Involuntary Push towards Poverty and Mal-development

 

by the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

 

Section 26(B), Book VI of the 1987 Revised Administrative Code as instituted by Executive Order (EO) 292 says that:

                Automatic Appropriations. — All expenditures for … (b) principal and interest                             on public debt, … are automatically appropriated.    

It was during the Martial Law in the Philippines that automatic appropriation for debt service was first codified, in Section 31(B) of Presidential Decree 1177 (Budget Reform Decree of 1977 ). In consonance with her “honor-all-debts” policy, Aquino signed into law the Administrative Code of 1987, copying en toto Section 31(B) of PD1177 into Section 26(B) of the code. Section 31(B) of PD1177 also serves as its legal basis.

Automatic appropriation for debt, on top of other automatic appropriations, severely compromise the Congressional “power of the purse“ since only a little amount of the budget is left for Congressional reallocation as Congress cannot increase the budgetary ceiling (Article VI, Section 25-1 of the 1987 Constitution, as affirmed by Sec. 24, Book VI of EO292). The level of borrowings too, is effectively set by the amount of principal amortization to debts which are to be “rolled over”, since they are not part of the budget but instead deducted to new “financing” of the government.

 

Origins of the Automatic Appropriation

It is interesting to note that the US government also had an experience with an automatic appropriations law on debt service, but this was during a war. It was in 1847, during the Mexican War , that the US Congress for the first time altered the practice of appropriating specific amounts of money for each expense it authorized. Instead it empowered the Treasury to pay all interest and principal on the national debt as it came due, regardless of the amount paid out. This creates the first “automatic” appropriation legislation – authorizing the Treasury to pay the debt as it became due without obtaining specific congressional approval [Krishnakumar, 2005].

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Debt Payments and Under-spending

Almost all throughout post-EDSA era, 1986-1995 and 1999-2012, total debt service exceeded spending for both economic services and social services. Supposed additional funds for economic services to spur growth and for investment in the country’s human capital in the form of social services are instead used for debt payment, some of which for questionable loans.

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Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)

SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue, U.P. Complex Diliman,

Quezon City, Philippines 1101

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review – Philippines

June 2012

A. The Commission on Human Rights 

1. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)  is the national human rights institution in the country with “A” status accreditation.  CHRP was created under the 1987 Constitution to investigate human rights violations, monitor government compliance with international human rights obligations, provide human rights education and training, among others.  This independent submission is a product of internal deliberations as well as regional and national consultations with Civil Society.[1]

 

B. Institutional and Legal Framework for Human Rights, New Developments

2. Since the first UPR session on the Philippines,[2] Congress has passed a number of laws on human rights related to the UPR recommendations.[3] Other major human rights laws have yet to be enacted including the Commission on Human Rights Charter, compensation to victims of human rights violations, and laws on protection against extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearance and protections for internally displaced persons.

3.  The CHR has been given additional substantive roles under the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Torture Law, and IHL law. Without corresponding resources, these additional functions and the proposed prosecutorial mandate[4] would overburden the Commission and impair its effectiveness.  It still does not have full fiscal autonomy, its budget has been cut twice[5] and it lacks the power to determine its own organizational structure; all of which weaken its independence.  The long overdue CHR Charter bill[6] should be a priority as a long-term, institutional measure for human rights protection and promotion. Strengthening the National Human Rights Institution is a long-term measure for human rights protection and promotion.

C. Human Rights Protection and Promotion on the Ground

Related to UPR Recommendations

Recommendation  1[7] Violence against women, access to justice and rehabilitation and post-conflict care for women and children 

 4.  The Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act[8] has been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. Despite training programs for the judiciary, some court decisions seem to reflect the preference of some judges to not apply this law and other laws, including the 1997 special law on rape. A Court of Appeals decision shows gender stereotyping and high requirements for a woman to establish the occurrence of rape and lack of consent.[9]

5.  The Magna Carta of Women[10] addresses many of the issues related to discrimination and violence against women.[11]  However, though the law provides that “measures to prosecute and reform offenders shall likewise be pursued,” it does not establish how to accomplish this.

6.  Three cases have been filed in the CEDAW committee and the government has yet to respond to a request for an invitation from the CEDAW Committee.

7.  Addressing special needs for rehabilitation and post-conflict care of women and children in vulnerable situations and conflict areas remains a challenge. The CHR will adopt a monitoring tool[12] to systematically monitor the situation of vulnerable groups including women and children.                                                                                       

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I. Description of the methodology and the consultation process followed for the preparation of information provided under the universal periodic review

1. This submission was prepared through facilitation of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) with assistance of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) in coordination with sixty-three (63) civil society organizations (see annex 1). Four (4) national workshops and consultations including one with Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) were conducted to gather inputs and recommendations for this report.

II. Issues and concerns on the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground and implementation of international human rights obligations

2. During this UPR review period, Philippines adopted domestic laws that mirror international human rights instruments, such as Anti-Torture Law or Republic Act 9745, criminalization of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or Republic Act 9851, Magna Carta for Women, anti-child pornography law of 2009 and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

3. The Aquino government stated that human rights would be a pillar of his governance, a basis of his development plans and the core of the paradigm shift in the security sector. However, after one and a half years in power, it still has no clear human rights agenda with the draft National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) still waiting presidential approval.

4. Furthermore, human rights violations persist while the culture of impunity remains to be a glaring reality in the country. Factors behind this are the militarist and punitive approach in addressing the root causes of insurgency, weak exercise of command responsibility and poor implementation of laws. Police and military forces continue to be among the top human rights violators as shown in the records of the CHRP. Human rights enjoyment also suffers due to lack of harmonization of and conflicts in the implementation of laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Mining Act of 1995.

5. In a study of Atty. Parreño, among the 305 incidents of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) from 2001 to August 2010, 32% of victims were activists while 10% were farmers. This only shows that civil and political rights (CPR) violations such as EJKs and enforced disappearances could often be traced to suppression of people’s assertion and claiming of their economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.

6. The Philippines also failed to adopt its NHRAP that would have given direction to the State to implement its obligations under the rights of children, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, and lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, and trans-gender (LGBT), persons with disabilities as well as the rights to life, food, health, education and work. Concomitantly, there is lack of decisiveness and haphazard approach by State agents in following-up the implementation of the accepted recommendations from the last UPR.

7. The absence of a National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM) composed of the CHRP, government agencies, security sector, and civil society, exacerbated by the non-passage of a law on the right to information and lack of transparency in complaint processes has eroded the substance of human rights pronouncements and encouraged impunity to thrive.

8. The State has to fully integrate and consistently use the rights-based approach in its governance, legislative and development plans.

9. Government also needs to harness the potential of civil society by reinstating CSOs’ participation in the revitalized Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) and encouraging CHR deputization of human rights defenders (HRDs).

10. Finally, the State has to maximize the expertise and material assistance of the United Nations and its member nations, such as inviting the UN Special Rapporteurs, e.g., the Special Rapporteur in Promoting Human Rights while Combating Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on Disability.

III. Achievements, best practices, challenges and constraints in relation to the previous review’s recommendations

To read more. Please click this link:   Joint CSO Report to 2nd UPR_cycle

The annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005 to honour the work of a human rights defender or group of human rights defenders who, through non-violent work, are courageously making an outstanding contribution to the promotion and protection of the human rights of others, often at great personal risk to themselves.

The Award seeks to focus international attention on the human rights defender’s work, thus contributing to the recipient’s personal security, and a cash prize of €15,000 is awarded to the Award recipient and his/her organisation in an effort to support the continuation of this important work.

Front Line is currently accepting nominations for the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk 2012, and will continue to do so until the 30th January 2012.

Please click on the link below to access the secure nomination form:

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/secure/nomination.php

Thoughts on the debt

By: Faith-Based Congress Against Immoral Debt (FCAID)

While the government treats the issue of debt as something that can only be understood by economic technocrats, planners and managers, FCAID say differently. Debt and public finance is not something outside the realm of the people and certainly not outside the realm of the faith-based community. In fact, the issue is more than just an economic issue but rather an ethical and moral issue.

Debt has been considered as a focus of concern even back in the early days. The days when people were sold us slaves to pay for the debts of the family. It is already known as something that chains people deeper into poverty.

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by FRONTLINE DEFENDERS

Human rights defenders are the people whose legitimate work for human rights creates the building blocks of societies based on the principles of justice, equality and human rights. This handbook is intended to give human rights defenders at risk practical advice on how to deal with the attacks which they may have to deal with in their work as a human rights defender. This manual is designed as a quick reference handbook giving helpful and practical suggestions on steps to improve personal security. Front Line seeks to provide 24 hour support to human rights defenders at immediate risk. If you are a human rights defender and are concerned about your personal safety please feel free to contact our emergency number at any time. After office hours you will be offered five language options, each of which will connect you to a member of staff.

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