Tag Archive: HRD-Pilipinas


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

(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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HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS-PILIPINAS

(Mr. Jonal Javier (in red shirt), Secretary General of HRD-Pilipinas during the 4th Regional HRD Forum in Manila)

Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas or HRD-Pilipinas is a non-stock, non-profit organization duly registered under the PhilippinesSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  It is a membership organization of individuals actively engaging in the promotion, defense, protection and fulfillment of “human rights for all” in the Philippines on various issues be it in civil, political, economic, social, cultural spheres or in the field of development and peace.

Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas was born-out from the series of campaigns of civil society organizations against the rising phenomenon of extra-judicial killings of human rights workers and activists in Philippines in 2006.  This was highlighted with the official visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Execution Prof. Phillip Alston in March 2007; and, its subsequent report and recommendations on the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council.  In 2008, under the Human Rights Defenders Program of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), series of consultations were conducted on the situation and protection of HRDs.  In a resolution during the 1st National Conference of Human Rights Defenders on December 1-2, 2009 at De LaSalle University in Manila, participants to the gathering resolved to establish a formal organization of HRDs to look into possible protection mechanisms for HRDs and ways of enhancing their capabilities in doing human rights work.  A National Coordinating Committee was set-up to implement the resolution and manage the preparation of the organization.  On November 30 – December 1, 2010, the 1st National General Assembly was called for and participated in by 75 HRDs coming from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; formally launching the Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas at the La Consolacion Convent, San Juan, Metro Manila. Continue reading

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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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

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

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

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