Category: Statements


6th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum

 Manila Declaration

(Adopted in Manila, the Philippines, on 5 December 2014)

 

Participants of the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum in the Philippines, 3-5 December 2014

Participants of the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum in the Philippines, 3-5 December 2014

 

We, more than 150human rights defenders (HRDs) and women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from 22 countries across Asia, together with other regional and international partners, participating in the 6th Asian Regional Human Rights Defenders Forum held in Manila, the Philippines, on 3-5 December 2014, themed “Consolidation of HRD Protection Platforms Towards Stronger and Vibrant HRD Networks in Asia,” co-organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development(FORUM-ASIA), the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates(PAHRA);

 Asserting our identity as HRDs and WHRDs and our indispensable role in the advancement, consolidation and sustaining of democracy that is built on the foundation of effective protection, promotion and respect of universal human rights;

Standing in solidarity with all HRDs and WHRDs who are at risk for asserting their own as well as others’ human rights;

Recognising the contribution of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, as well as other regional and international protection mechanisms, in legitimising and protecting the work of HRDs and WHRDs across the region; Continue reading

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hrd-logo-sample-colored5(HRDP Statement on the 64th Int’l Human Rights Day)

On the occasion of the International Human Rights day on December 10, 2012, the Human Rights DefendersPilipinas (HRDP) salutes all working women and men in reclaiming the dignity of persons and those who continuously strive towards the achievement of all human rights for all.

Sadly, sixty-four years after the states adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), cases of human rights violations especially against human rights defenders are of an alarming number and must be urgently addressed.

Reports of extra-judicial killings of political activists, predominately those associated with grass-root organizations fighting for land distribution and against mining, have now caused increasing concern. Most of the killings are carried out by unidentified men believed to be hired goons, or associated with private armies and paramilitary groups. But most appallingly, gross violations are perpetrated by soldiers acting on behalf of private corporations and/or on mere suspicions.

Take the case of a family who were killed in Sitio Fayahlob, Barangay Datal Aliong, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, Mindanao. Juvy Capion and her two sons Jordan and John died due to fatal gunshot wounds found on various parts of their bodies. According to witnesses, members of the Philippine Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, trooped towards the scene and strafed the house of the victims using their automatic rifles. Victims were killed instantly. Juvy Capion is from the B’laan tribe who strongly opposes mining operations conducted by SMI/Xtrata within their ancestral land.

Another human rights defender Venecia “Inday” Natingga, 49, was murdered along the highway of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte around five (5) in the afternoon on June 19, 2012. She was going home riding a motorcycle from the town center when she was killed. She sustained seven (7) gunshot wounds. The most fatal hit her head causing her sudden death. Her family and colleagues believed the killing had something to do with Natingga’s active involvement in helping farmers acquire a small portion of land through agrarian reform. They claimed that previous owners of the Segovia Estate dreadfully contested the Natingga’s efforts.

The same fate befell Datu Jimmy Liguyon, an indigenous chieftain and Dao village captain who was shot dead allegedly by Aldy Salusad, a member of the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army (NIPAR). Liguyon was killed on March 5, 2012 inside his own house in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Before the killing, Jimmy led his community to protest against ongoing militarization of their community. He was also a staunch critic of mining activities in the area.

Repeatedly, HRDP calls on the Aquino government to proactively investigate these cases and punish those responsible. We urge the Philippine government to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country and those who work for the welfare of the marginalized.

The acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being, but undermine the fundamental role human rights defenders play in society.  Violations against HRDs leave all those whom they fight for defenseless.

Our leaders should keep in mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential to the formation of a solid and lasting free society. They must realize that human rights defenders play an important role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

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.

 

(A Statement on the 63rd Human Rights Day & the 13th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders)

On the 63rd celebration of the International Human Rights Day (December 10), we pay tribute to thousands of human rights defenders (HRDs) who offered their lives in the cause of freedom and dignity of life.  We take pride in the continuing assertion of others amid violent repression.  We salute those who have never wavered for the cause of human rights.

More than ever this year is a witness to the blossoming of human rights as an ideal and value in action.  The uprisings that spring from the Arab world, the protests that sweep major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all of which highlight the mainstreaming of human rights in governance and the aspiration of peoples for respect, protection, promotion and defense for human rights.  These conditions bring out the core spirit of people to be human rights defenders.  Young and old, male and female or whatever sexual orientation, rich and poor, summon all their voices together in pains of oppression in crying out mantras of non-discrimination, people empowerment and development, equality and human rights for all.

With these mantras, many tools have been mustered to usher effective advocacies and facilitate peoples’ solidarity with those who face persecution.  The social media for one made people see the actions going on.  Captured pictures and videos not allowed in a ‘seemingly’ controlled media have found their way through available modern communication technology, reaching even the remotest areas many people have not known to exist.  Appeals for help and international solidarity are made timely, on time and online.   ‘Revolutions’ for human rights have become virtual reality through communication gadgets made available for ordinary people.  What is inspiring, people have mastered these technologies to spread out the news, the truth and the dream of people to be free.  And, recognize the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world (UDHR, 1948; ICCPR, 1966; ICESCR, 1966).

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Give voice to the powerless, advocate and monitor implementation of human rights standards, documentation of human rights violations, organize, assist and support victims of human rights violations, provide human rights education and training- are just by way of examples, the contribution of non-government organizations (NGOs) and civil society to the advancement and protection of human rights.

The 1987 Constitution provides the NGOs the power to represent the people’s interests in consultations on local and national issues, as well as in governance and policy-making (Section 23 of Article II: “The State shall encourage non-governmental, community-based, or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.”).

In 1991, the Republic Act No. 7169 otherwise known as the Local Government Code (Sections 34, 35 and 37, refers to ‘people’s and non-government organizations’) devolved the provision of certain services to Local Government Units (LGUs) and made NGO involvement in these bodies mandatory. The Code specified that LGUs should promote the establishment and operation of NGOs. It also permitted them to cooperate with them in areas like socio-economic development and environmental protection. Other local government bodies– like the health board, school board and pre-qualification bids and awards committees– were also to have NGO representation.

In the international human rights arena, NGOs and civil society actors’ contribution has also enriched the work of the independent experts that belong to long-established United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms. Crucially, their knowledge and experiences have also been brought to bear in the establishment and operations of human rights treaty bodies and special procedures.

This position paper makes specific reference to the proposed resolution of the Commission on Human Rights (referred hereafter as the Commission) on Accreditation of NGOs and members of civil society [ RESOLUTION CHR (IV) No. A2011]. The Commission’s proposed resolution at hand should be considered alongside with other existing international human rights instruments and guidelines such as the “Principles relating to the status of national institutions” (otherwise known as The Paris Principles) adopted by United Nations General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993, as requisite ingredients for effective and independent functioning of national human rights institutions.

Based on various kinds and actual experiences, clearly, the Commission should cultivate and deepen their working relationship with NGOs and civil society especially those working in the protection and defense of human rights or with vulnerable groups, in obtaining redress for the victims of human rights violations and breaking impunity.

Taking into closer look at the public legitimacy of the Commission, rather than just formal legitimacy as a constitutional body mandated by the Constitution, it is assumed that the credibility and effectiveness of the Commission derives more from what they did such as investigations on alleged human rights violations, jail visitations, provision of assistance to the victims of human rights violations and human rights education and training, than from what they said in public and media they would do.

A clear line should be appropriately drawn on the roles between the Commission and, NGOs and civil society. The reality is that if the Commission had characteristic and behavior similar to NGOs and civil society, they would likely to prove less useful and effective in the discharge of their functions and responsibilities they are supposed to do.

To be effective and credible, the Commission must gain a degree of trust from those working within the government, as well as in NGOs and civil society. However, it does not mean understanding the constraints within which the government and its agencies operates and offering solutions to protect and promote human rights on the grounds in a narrow sense.

The Commission at its best should act as a viable conduit through which NGOs and civil society help peoples, in particular the marginalized sector, articulate their grievances and bring documented and reported cases of human rights violations to the attention of the government for its appropriate and timely action. The Commission has its own specific identity and character which stands between the government and, NGOs and civil society. As service providers, they should largely complement rather than duplicate the work and displace each other.

The proposed accreditation interfere the independence of the Commission as well as that of NGOs and civil society. Accreditation may be viewed as a form of interference and a move to restrict the political space upon which CSOs operate. It is a dangerous measure which when accepted by civil society groups may find themselves eventually into a trap. It seems to be unfavorable for the NGOs and civil society since accreditation has a discriminatory and divisive effect among civil society groups. It will result to the polarization of civil society into those accredited which may result to receiving preferential treatment from the Commission and those not which may result to their being discredited and marginalization. We certainly do not want to see such a scenario in our midst.

Many of the points we have articulated are directed towards strengthening the capacity of the Commission which is crucial to the protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights. Suffice it to say, we should provide support to the Commission and do so in ways that to the maximum degree recognize and strive to protect our independence and respective organizational mandate.

The Commission’s cooperation with NGOs and civil society remains a strategic priority because it bolsters our shared objectives, helps to address our mutual concerns, and supports the Commission’s mandate. We believe that a dynamic and autonomous civil society, able to operate freely, knowledgeable and skilled with regard to human rights, is a key element in ensuring sustainable human rights protection in the country based on the principles of respect, independence, equity and justice.

On the “Guidelines for Applications to Conduct any Activities Inside Jail Facilities” of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) dated March 22, 2011, we find the said guidelines restrictive and violate certain provisions of the Republic Act No. 7438 (An Act Defining Certain Rights of Person Arrested, Detained or Under Custodial Investigation as well as Duties of the Arresting, Detaining and Investigation Officers) and RA 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 as stated in Section 20 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9745.

The guidelines are a source of obstruction to victim’s right to access to a lawyer and an independent doctor, and violate pertinent laws (as stated above).

Thus, we suggest a dialogue must be conducted among the stakeholders like representatives of the Commission, NGOs and civil society, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) , BJMP, Bureau of Corrections, and AFP, PNP Human Rights Offices to review, modify and determine the nature of such guidelines.

Asian Federation Against Voluntary Disappearances (AFAD)
Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC)
Defend Central Luzon – Kilusan para sa Pambansyang Demokrasya (KPD)
Libertas-Philippines
Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRD-Pilipinas)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Sulong CARHRIHL

July 11, 2011

At around 3:45 PM, a man riding a blue motorcycle was blocked by armed men, shoved into a white Ford Cortina bearing government license plates and taken away.  The person would later on fit the description of Fr. Rudy Romano, CsSR.

It was July 11, 1985. He was 44 years old.

Twenty six years later, we still ask the question asked by many on that fateful day, “Where is Fr. Rudy?”.

Perhaps his enforced disappearance was orchestrated by those could not live with his leadership role in the progressive movement or perhaps by those whose interests were threatened by his community organizing and fraternizing with the basic masses – the workers, the farmers, the poor.  Perhaps he inspired resistance against the injustices perpetrated by the forces that be. Perhaps his abduction was meant to silence the growing anti-dictatorship sentiments in the province.

These nagging questions persist to this day. What is certain is that despite Fr. Rudy’s sudden disappearance, his personal struggle for social change has taken a collective form and continues to this day.

For every worker who is deprived of his just share in the distribution of wealth, Fr. Rudy is there. For every farmer denied of his dignity by being denied of his right to till his own land, Fr. Rudy is there. For every injustice, Fr. Rudy is there.

His abductors failed to see this bitter-sweet reality – they only snatched away a man. They could not kill the flames of social change and the movement behind it. For truly, Fr. Rudy represented not himself but the many generations, past and continuing, who yearn for a better society.

Fr. Rudy gives face to the faceless one thousand seven hundred ninety one  desaperacidos documented since the Marcos dictatorship. His disappearance reminds us that the path to achieving social transformation is not only a lonely one but one that treads along the line of fire.

We identify with the cause of Fr. Rudy.

Today, on 26th year of his disappearance we renew our commitment to the aspirations of Fr. Rudy. Today, we confront impunity by remembering Fr. Rudy and by reliving Fr. Rudy.

We give justice to him by carrying on.

We challenge the present Aquino Administration to solve the one thousand one hundred seventeen cases of disappearances, of people still missing.

We challenge this Government to enact an anti-enforced disappearance law to criminalize enforced disappearance, to show that it has not forgotten the stories of the disappeared.

We honor the desaperacidos by remembering them.

As we remember Fr. Rudy, we remember all those who suffered the same fate, here and elsewhere.

End enforced disappearance!
Enact an anti-disappearance law NOW!
Justice for Fr. Rudy!
Justice for all the disappeared!

Task Force Detainees of the Philippines-Visayas (TFDP-Visayas)
SANLAKAS Sugbo
Human Rights Defenders Pilipinas-Cebu (HRDP-Cebu)
Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance-Cebu (FIND-Cebu)
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralita ng Lungsod-Cebu (KPML-Cebu)
Freedom from Debt Colaition-Cebu (FDC-Cebu)
Partido Lakas ng Masa-Cebu (PLM-Cebu)

July 11, 2011

June 26, 2011, Philippines

Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas today joins the global community in commemorating the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.   Our solidarity on this important event comes in the context where human rights defenders in the Philippines and elsewhere are under attack.  Peoples organizations are vilified as terrorists and enemies of the state.  Their members, supporters and organizers are tagged as communists.  Movements are watched; projects and actions are suspected.  Human rights defenders are threatened, at risk and under surveillance.

We join the international appeal for the total abortion of the use of torture.  We put forward a dream where human rights defenders are sincerely considered partners in the creation and foundation of a worldwide culture of human rights, peace and development; where torture becomes a thing of the past; and, where human rights defenders are protected in the conduct of their duties.

On this significant day, Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas takes the occasion to remind us all that torture has no place in a civilized society like ours.  This is our protocol.  This is our challenge.  This is an urgent call in a country where torture is unconsciously accepted as the “standard operating procedure” of the security sector.  Where, pain is induced without remorse to exact confession; to break victims, their families, friends and organizations; to cow human rights defenders from pursuing works for human rights, peace, justice and development.

A torture-free society is also a society of compassion.  It seeks to eliminate cruel, degrading and inhuman conditions.  It looks at the circumstance of prisoners and the state of their incarceration.  We call for a special attention in the case of Mariano Umbrero, a prisoner of conscience with cancer now in fourth stage.  Together with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) and the rest of the human rights community, we appeal for his immediate pardon or granting of executive clemency on humanitarian grounds.  Due to his medical condition, his case needs urgent action; aside from the fact that no one shall be deprived of liberty based on political reasons.

Given our concrete condition today, we call for the reorientation of our institutions in the work for  human rights, to include “all” particularly the protection and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders.  In a functioning democracy, everybody has a responsibility to anybody; even ordinary citizen.  Thus, protection for HRDs is a responsibility of EVERYBODY lest we forget that we live as a community.

For more information, contact: companion
Renato Mabunga, Chairperson, 437-8054, hrd.pilipinas@gmail.com

Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas
#45 St. Mary Street, Cubao, Quezon City
Tel. # (632) 437-8054  Fax: (632) 911-3643

In January this year the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aired its claim of “paradigm shift” in its internal peace and security plan called “bayanihan” with “ugnayan” as the Northern Luzon Command’s (NOLCOM) counterpart campaign plan.  While we welcome the emphasis of “addressing the needs of our less fortunate communities, in collaboration with other stakeholders”, we are wary of the institution’s truthfulness and sincerity with the latest multiple harassment cases in Central Luzon.

From June 1 to 6 this year, residents of Barangay Taal, Purok 1, Malolos City, Province of Bulacan were witnesses to a new round of military operations by elements of the 70th Infantry (Cadre) Battalion, 7th ID Philippine Army and members of CAFGU.  They are looking for members of Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and SANLAKAS (all legal organizations), and alleged these groups have ties to the New People’s Army (NPA).  Families were interviewed and peoples’ organizations were vilified. At least three residents were asked to report to certain Sgt. Mendoza at the camp located in Niugan, Malolos.

The incident brings to fore canny military procedure that sows fear in the communities of Central Luzon.  What is more worrisome is the targeting of human rights defenders – members of organized groups whose only desire is to protect and assert their guaranteed rights under the Philippine Constitution and the International Bill of Rights.

In a landmark study on the protection of human rights defenders in the Philippines, Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of HRD-Pilipinas identified threats to Life, harassment and stigmatization as the dangers for human rights defenders.  These threats are borne-out of military operations’ house-to-house “census”, witch-hunting and vilification proceedings on community and peoples’ organizations.

The latest case in Bulacan undermines the sincerity of the armed forces’ security plan.  It projects a weak command of the military echelon in asserting a marching order of a paradigm shift.  A shift in orientation from the old concept and operation to new cooperative and synergetic actions together with various stakeholders in the community.

Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRD-Pilipinas) therefore calls on the Armed Forces of the Philippines:

–          to immediately stop its “census” and vilification operations in the communities of Central Luzon;

–          Review military actions in the field that breed human rights violations to individuals and communities;

–          Identify and penalize certain “Sgt. Mendoza” and company for instigating actions inimical to the image of the AFP as “changed institution”;

–           to investigate the case of harassment in Central Luzon and other areas of similar situation;

–          Re-orient its ranks and files in its claimed “broader framework of security serving society, acting in harmony with other government strategic policies for peace, security and development.”

To the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate and document this case in Brgy. Taal, Malolos City; and, monitor compliance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to human rights protection and promotion.

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