Tag Archive: non-government organization


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 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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Photo by the Medical Action Group (MAG)

by Hon. Jose Midas P. Marquez
Court Administrator
Chief, Public Information Office

(Note from the Blogger:  This article was delivered  by the author at the Media Launch of the Medical Action Group Project at the Citrine Emerald Room Function Hall, Diamond Hotel, Roxas Boulevard, Manila on 06 August 2011.  It is uploaded in this page as a possible mechanism for the protection of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).)

A pleasant morning to everyone.
 
Last December 2008, I spoke before your organization on the importance of medical documentation in relation to the case of the Manalo brothers, which is the first decision of the Supreme Court on the application of the Writ of Amparo, an extraordinary remedy promulgated by the Court available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated, or threatened with violation. Today, barely three years after, I am proud to say that the Supreme Court has not wavered in its quest in protecting and defending human rights, and has consistently issued resolutions which can be considered as triumphs in such mission.

The plight of missing political activist Jonas Joseph T. Burgos falls under this mission.  It was on 28 April 2007 when Jonas was abducted by several unidentified men while he was eating lunch at a restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. Eyewitnesses, including the restaurant’s employees, claim that Jonas was dragged into a van whose license plates were later traced to another vehicle impounded by the military in Bulacan. Up to now, the whereabouts of Jonas are unknown. Just last month, however the Court ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to produce Jonas, and to show cause why he should not be released from detention.[1]

Two months ago, the Court also ordered the AFP to release University of the Philippines (UP) student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and farmer Manuel Merino, who have been missing for nearly five years and were allegedly abducted by armed men, and said that retired General Jovito Palparan and five others “appear responsible and accountable” for their disappearance.[2] The High Tribunal emphasized its order by putting the words “immediate release” in capital letters in its ruling.

The High Court added that its decision is final and executory, and thus, there is no need to file any motion for the execution of its decision. The Court said that “since the right to life, liberty and security of a person is at stake, the proceedings should not be delayed and execution of any decision thereon must be expedited as soon as possible since any form of delay even for a day may jeopardize the very rights that these writs seek to immediately protect.”

And late last year, the High Court ordered the CHR to conduct further investigation on Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas’s alleged abduction and torture by the military in 1999. Roxas alleged that she and companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc were resting in the house of one Mr. Jesus Paolo in Sitio Bagong Sikat, Barangay Kapanikian, La Paz, Tarlac when 15 heavily armed men barged in, ganged them up, blindfolded, and dragged them to a waiting van. She claimed that she was later taken to the military camp of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija where she was allegedly interrogated and tortured on suspicion of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

In this case of Roxas v. Arroyo,[3] the Court specifically tasked the CHR to identify the persons described in the cartographic sketches submitted by Roxas as well as their whereabouts, and to pursue any other leads relevant to her abduction and torture.

The Roxas case likewise brings me to another equally consequential point, and that is the importance of effective medical documentation in successfully prosecuting amparo cases, and other cases against violations of human rights. One of the documentary exhibits admitted in this case is the medical certificate of Roxas, which was executed right after she was freed.

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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

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