Tag Archive: Enforced Disappearance


by Renato G. Mabunga

(This article has been presented by the author to the delegates of the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (6th AHRDF) held in Quezon City, Philippines on 3-5 December 2014)

 

Though use inter-changeably and oftentimes carries the same meaning, intent and even connotation, there is a THIN LINE DISTINCTION between Security of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) and the Protection of Human Rights Workers.

Coming from an Organization Development (OD) perspective: Security of HRD speaks more of the assessment of the Slide2internal realities of individual defenders and their organizations vis-à-vis their actual experience and perceptions in the conduct of doing human rights work. It is an evaluation of perceived risks and threats that directly impacts on one’s personal commitment (to the cause of human rights), involvement (to organizations), and sustainability of seeing through some changes in the external situation. It also defines the degree of threshold for organization indicating critical shift or change in the conduct of operation – from a normal, acceptable level of usual activities to conscious weighing of the impact and dangers of particular action to the lives of the implementers and/or the target communities.

Protection of HRDs, on the other hand, is a response or measures derived from the assessment of risks and threats. This could either be personal or at the individual level, or organizational. And, may take the form of internal policies of the organization or personal disciplinary measures and precautions of individual HRDs. All of which are aimed at lessening risks and threats. Continue reading

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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

The UN Special Rapperteur on HRD, Michel Forst with Asian HRD-subregional workshop group reporters during the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (AHRDF) in Quezon City, Philippines, 3-5 December 2014. (Photo by FORUM-ASIA)

The UN Special Rapperteur on HRD, Michel Forst with Asian HRD-subregional workshop group reporters during the 6th Asian Human Rights Defenders Forum (AHRDF) in Quezon City, Philippines, 3-5 December 2014. (Photo by Jerbert Briola)

 

 

Human rights defenders from around the world gathered in Manila last week to consolidate “protection platforms” for human rights workers. The meeting highlighted various protection initiatives on the ground and the challenges for their implementation.

The event tracked various organizational protection systems and mechanisms as stopgap measures against violations of the rights of activists. It also mapped out effective engagement and cooperation with the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

In his speech, Michel Forst, the UN rapporteur, noted that Asian human rights defenders are the most threatened, intimidated or investigated.

They are also the most harassed or criminalized, and the most likely to be prevented from travelling.

Such violations and denials of fundamental freedoms have been aimed to discredit, silence and eliminate human rights defenders in the region, he said.

Forst observed that the space for civil society and human rights defenders in the Asian region has shrunk while state and non-state entities in Asia use “sophisticated patterns of attacks” to impede the legitimate work of human rights defenders.

Indeed, Asian human rights defenders are facing increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and information, on the rights to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly and the criminalization, vilification and use of judicial harassment in persecuting development workers and even environmental activists.

It is precisely because of the critical role of human rights defenders in promoting human rights awareness and debate at national and international levels that many find their own rights flagrantly violated by repressive governments.

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By: Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

(Note:  This article was first published in HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM, Volume 5, Number 1issue.  Updated and modified to incorporate latest developments and preparation on the Philippine 2nd Cycle Universal Periodic Review slated on the 13th HRC/UPR Working Group session in May to June 2012.)

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“Every day we are reminded of the need for a strengthened United Nations, as we face a growing array of new challenges, including humanitarian crises, human rights violations, armed conflicts and important health and environmental concerns. Seldom has the United Nations been called upon to do so much for so many. I am determined to breathe new life and inject renewed confidence in a strengthened United Nations firmly anchored in the twenty-first century, and which is effective, efficient, coherent and accountable.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

IN 1997, and again in 2002, reforms in the United Nations gained ground in Geneva and New York, respectively. These reforms came in the heels of then-Secretary General Kofi Annan’s challenge to the UN’s “continued significance” in the face of 21st century realities. He called for improvements in how the UN conducts its work, implements its mandate and manages the funds entrusted to it by its Member States in order to bring human rights to all peoples of the world.

These reforms took a significant turn during the General Assembly’s 60th session. The world’s leaders adopted UNGA Resolution 60/251 on the 15th of March 2006, which created the Human Rights Council (HRC). The HR Council is now a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, taking over the role of the Commission on Human Rights, which was created under article 68 of the UN Charter on Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The HRC was mandated to conduct a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism to evaluate each member state’s human rights commitments. The said review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialog, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs. The UPR is intended to complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.

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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.

(Read full article…)

SONA 2011 (photo by TFDP)

By Renato G. Mabunga, PhD 

Background:

  • Ever since the decision of Mr. Benigno Simeon Aquino III to run as the 15th president of the Republic of the Philippines, he fails to provide the Filipino people with a concrete human rights agenda.
    • The fact remains that on major occasions, where the president should have drawn a roadmap on how his government would fair on human rights, the whole country is left hanging.
    • All we have heard are promises on specific issues under a paradigm of anti-corruption: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (without corruption, there’s no poverty). Its framework of good governance is packaged on this slogan (corruption); alleviating it to be the “end-all” and “be-all” of what has and will become of the Philippines.
    • During the campaign period 2010 the Philippine human rights community had asked all presidential candidates of their human rights agenda. The Aquino camp had only promised in a traditional political fashion to incorporate human rights agenda in its governance.
  • From the moment Noynoy Aquino started his bid for the presidency until his oath taking into office, The Philippine Online Chronicles has compiled 24 promises from the various sorties Aquino had attended to. These are the following:
    1. Expand irrigation development program
    2. Probe 2004 vote rigging
    3. Scrap GMA’s flagship programs
    4. Upgrade army and increase defense spending
    5. Closure to extrajudicial killings
    6. No favors to allies and supporters
    7. Strictly enforce environmental laws
    8. Make Freedom of Information (FOI )bill his administration’s priority
    9. Streamline government approval processes
    10. Adjust government pay scale
    11. No to Dictatorship
    12. Safer sources of renewable energy
    13. Population management via responsible parenthood
    14. Charter change only via constitutional convention
    15. Create jobs at home, reject overseas employment as development strategy
    16. No new or increase in taxes
    17. Distribute Hacienda Luisita to Farmers
    18. Justice for Massacre Victims
    19. Renew peace talks and decades-long insurgencies
    20. Investigate Gloria Arroyo
    21. Avoid foreign trips
    22. A Lean, Graft-free Government
    23. A holistic and comprehensive public health care system
    24. To Quit Smoking if he wins
  • True enough, in his inaugural speech he warned on the abuse of power by government officials. This signaled his slogan “ang matuwid na daan” (the straight path) with war against corruption as the centerpiece of his administration.
  • Viewing some of them from the perspective of human rights, one could say at least, there are some possibilities that his administration would champion human rights as a guidepost of his anti-corruption slogan. Especially, if we take to heart his pronouncements during his inaugural address:
    • 1. Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.’ Ito ang mga prinsipyong tinatayuan at nagsisilbing batayan ng ating administrasyon. (If there are no corrupt, there are no empoverished prople. This is the principle and basis of my administration.)
    • 2. de-kalidad na edukasyon, kabilang ang edukasyong bokasyonal para makapaghanap ng marangal na trabaho ang hindi makapag-kolehiyo; (Quality education, including vocational courses in aid of searching for dignified work for those unable to pursue higher/college education.)
    • 3. serbisyong pangkalusugan tulad ng PhilHealth para sa lahat sa loob ng tatlong taon; (Health services like PhilHealth for all in three year time.)
    • 4. Tirahan sa loob ng mga ligtas na komunidad. (Housing in safer communities.)
    • 5. Kung dati ay may fertilizer scam, ngayon ay may kalinga nang tunay para sa mga magsasaka. Tutulungan natin sila sa irigasyon, extension services, at sa pagbenta ng kanilang produkto sa pinakamataas na presyong maaari. (While there was fertilizer scam before, now genuine services for all peasants.  Let’s help by providing them irrigation, extension services, and capabilities to sell their products to much higher possible prices.)
    • 6. There can be no reconciliation without justice. Sa paglimot ng pagkakasala,sinisigurado mong mauulit muli ang mga pagkakasalang ito. (By simply forgetting the past wrongs doings, they are surely be repeated again.) 
    • 7. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian.
    • 8. We shall defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform and equitable governance leading to a better life.
  • However, to compare these to his 10-point governance agenda (campaign platform), one can deduce them as mere band-aids to temporarily stop the bleeding of resources both human and natural.  Below are some broad strokes in his agenda which are Human Rights related:
    • Job creation – more on skill development thru TESDA and infrastructure building.
    • Mindanao – resumption of peace talks; Internal Refugees.
    • Reforms in the Judiciary – more on administrative/personnel build-up rather than incorporation of human rights frame into the current criminal justice system.
    • Education – for competitive advantage; infrastructure.
    • Health – philhealth for everyone; infrastructure.
    • Housing – in-city/on-site relocation. o Agrarian reform – irrigation; infrastructure.
  • All of these are packaged under anti-corruption campaign for social services which pre-supposes that internal systems within government departments are alright and policy-guidelines are adequate. It is no wonder that in his SONA ng “matuwid na daan”, there is: 
    • NO POLICY STATEMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS
    • No statement on the Human Security Act
    • No statement of legislations pending during the 14th congress on Extra-Judicial Killings, Enforced Disappearance, the Right to Information Bill, etc…
    • NO “MARCHING ORDERS” ON CURRENT HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS AND ISSUES
    • One liner on Extra-Judicial Killings during the post Arroyo administration and none on the EJKs during the previous administrations.
    • Nothing on enforced disappearances
    • NO CLEAR POLICY STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS, PROTOCOLS OR MECHANISMS THAT REMAIN PENDING
    • NOT A SINGLE WORD ON AGRARIAN REFORM OR SOCIAL JUSTICE

Where are we now in 2011(HR perspective):

  • Until at present, the current administration has not drawn up his Government’s human rights agenda.
    • The draft 2nd National Human Rights Action Plan of the Philippines for 2010-2014 (NHRAPP-2) has never been finalized and given attention. The 1st NHRAPP ended 11 years ago.
    • There is continuing extra-judicial killings amid repeated government announcement that it is not a policy of the administration.
      • Agta Tribal Leader case
      • Killings and harassments of environmental activists and journalists
      • In the One year of the Benigno Aquino Administration, 8 cases of Extra-judicial killings have been documented
    • UNSOLVED/UNADDRESSED ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES
      • For 16 years the bill criminalizing acts of enforced disappearance has not been passed.
      • Pending cases of enforced disappearance face a blank wall in search for the missing ones.
      • Two cases of enforced disappearance have been documented in the first year of Aquino administration.
    • “GUILT BY ASSOCIATION” CASES 
      • Ming Saladero Case 
      • Morong 43 case
      • Community “census” case in Central Luzon
      • Rita Melecio harassment case
    • On Torture 
      • Torture remains the standard operating procedure within the security forces. E.g. police torture case in NCR, Lenin Salas case, torture of petty criminals in Davao.
      • Torture and hazing are thought of as SOPs in the Philippine National Police training camps.
    • On Political Prisoners and humanitarian reasons
      • Tatay Umbrero case and the post humous executive clemency.
      • Hunger strike of political detainees calling for a Human Rights Agenda in the Aquino administration; prison reforms and release of all political prisoners.
  • With the current human rights environment, IMPUNITY and DE FACTO IMMUNITY exist.
  • SONA 2010 and 2011 failed to provide a clear road map for human rights protection and social justice dispensation under the Aquino Administration. A window of hope remains present however:
    • the Constitution remains clear in its mandate to guarantee full respect to human rights and ensure human dignity.
    • CSOs must remain vigilant and together with the oppressed sectors consistently engage and assert peoples’ and human rights demands.

While there is a window for hope, many things still need to be done:

  • THE PROMISE OF CLOSURE?
  • A CLEAR HUMAN RIGHTS AGENDA/POLICY
  • SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION 
  • Laws on Extra-Judicial Killings and Criminalization of cases Enforced Disappearance
  • Incorporating International laws and IHL PRINCIPLES through ratification or adoption of HR conventions, protocols and mechanisms
  • Freedom of Information
  • STRENGTHENING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN EXISTING STATE INSTITUTIONS TO GUARANTEE PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY
  • STRENGTHENING COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AS NATIONAL MECHANISM FOR PROTECTION
  • ADOPTION OF THE ROME STATUTE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT to provide solid foundation to the question of Command Responsibility (Art. 28, Rome Statute of the ICC)
  • STRENGTHENING JUDICIAL REMEDIES 
    • Writ of Amparo
    • Writ of Habeas Data
    • Writ of Habeas Corpus
    • PROVIDING FOR BETTER PROTECTION MEASURES
      • Witness protection program
      • Sanctuary provisions
      • Protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)
    • CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE OF JUDICIARY, EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCHES
      • Mainstreaming of human rights in all branches of government
      • Continuing human rights education for the security forces
      • Incorporation of human rights as a subject in school curricula
    • COMBATTING IMPUNITY

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

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