Category: Reports


Press Conference: CHR human rights protector or violator?

Press Conference: CHR human rights protector or violator?

By Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)[1]

I.          General Overview

President Benigno Aquino III considered 2012 a year of continued resurgence of the economy bolstered with increased confidence in good governance. He took pride in the dramatic leaps the country has taken in the global competitive index of the World Economic Forum; the unprecedented attainment of investment-grade status from the most respected credit ratings agencies in the world; and the astounding 6.8 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2012.[2]

Amidst this enthusiasm, cases of extra-judicial killings (EJK), enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests as well as other political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights violations increase halfway into the Aquino administration. What becomes alarming “is the growing number of threats and killings of rights defenders” as observed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and on extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns.[3]

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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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Submission by:   Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas

Related to:              The Philippines UPR Session: 13th Session of UPR, 21 May – 4 June 2012
Submitted:             28 November 2011

1.  The following submission has been prepared jointly by Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas (HRDP) based on research carried out by these organisations and information received from independent human rights defenders in the Philippines from January 2008 to November 2011.

2.  Front Line Defenders (www.frontlinedefenders.org) is an international NGO based in Ireland with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Front Line Defenders has particular expertise on the issue of security and protection of human rights defenders and works to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998.

3.  HRDP is a membership organisation of individual human rights defenders actively engaging in the promotion, defence, protection and fulfilment of “human rights for all” in the Philippines on various issues including civil, political, economic, social, cultural spheres or in the field of development and peace. It focuses on the protection of human rights defenders.

General trends facing human rights defenders

4.  Ms Margaret Sekkagya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, stated in her report to the 16th session of the Human Rights Council that “the Special Rapporteur remains seriously concerned regarding the persistent challenges faced by human rights defenders in the Philippines”.

5.  The threats against human rights defenders since the last UPR session on the Philippines in April 2008 remains unchanged.   Human rights defenders face extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, threats and intimidations, illegitimate restriction to the rights of freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Human rights defenders working in the field of peasants’ rights, land rights, and indigenous human rights defenders continue to face specific threats. The state security forces, including the military and the police, continue to abuse human rights defenders with impunity. The cases mentioned in this report were not properly investigated by the authorities and the perpetrators remained unpunished.

6.  Human rights defenders disregards of their geographical locations continue to be branded as working as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a way to dismiss their work and legitimate concerns. Defenders, working  specifically in the Southern Mindanao area, have been branded as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. The security forces have used this rhetoric to implement their “shoot to kill” policy against human rights defenders.

Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and impunity

7.  At the first UPR review, the Philippines accepted the recommendation “to completely eliminate torture and extrajudicial killings” (Holy See) and “to intensify its efforts to carry out investigations and prosecutions on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible” (Switzerland). Despite this commitment, 23 cases of extra-judicial killings were documented from 2008 to 2011, claiming 30 victims.  In the same period, 79 cases of enforced disappearance were reported. Of these, 50 ended with the victim reappearing alive; in five cases the victim was found dead; and 24 remain missing.

8.  The Philippines, despite being a party to international human rights treaties, which impose a duty on the state to investigate alleged violations of the right to life, including extra-judicial killings, has provided human rights defenders with little or no protection. While soldiers, police, and militia members have been implicated in many of these killings, no member of the military active at the time of the killing has been brought to justice.

9.  While different statistics exist relating to the exact number of human rights defenders killed in recent years, human rights lawyers, journalists, union and community leaders, continue to be targeted and extra judicially killed or disappeared with impunity. These cases have not been treated with priority by the government. The authors of these killings are usually unidentified individuals on motorcycles, suspected of having ties with the army, the police and other law enforcement agencies.

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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

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