Tag Archive: Philippine


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

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

Press Conference: CHR human rights protector or violator?

Press Conference: CHR human rights protector or violator?

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

I.          General Overview

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

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

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Photo by Human Rights Online PH

For three years, the United Nations has marked the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30 in recognition of the fact that “enforced disappearances” have no place in a world that aspires to freedom and justice.

An “enforced disappearance” is defined as “deprivation of liberty outside of the protection of the law by agents of government or of authority through concealment of the victim’s whereabouts.”

Beyond this definition, however, is the immense suffering of families haunted by the fate of the “desaparecidos,” the term used for the disappeared in the Philippines.

In Asia, where most governments hide behind the pretext of law and order and national security, official rhetoric has failed to cover up enforced disappearances.

In Bangladesh, 24 disappeared were documented in 2012. This year, there have already been 14 documented cases, allegedly perpetrated by members of the Rapid Action Battalion, the Police Detective Branch and the Industrial Police.

In Jammu and Kashmir in India’s restive northwest, conflicting statements by different government agencies have become a feature of this issue. There have been more than 8,000 cases of recorded disappearances since 1989, yet successive governments have officially downplayed the number. In 2005, the People’s Democratic Party-led government claimed there were 3,931 such cases. In 2009, the National Conference-led government claimed 3,429 missing and then last year, the same government claimed only 2,305 people had disappeared since 1989.

Whether there has been just one or thousands of victims is of secondary concern. What is essential is an effective mechanism for probing cases of violations, finding victims, easing the burden and suffering of families and for holding governments accountable within a human rights framework.

In Indonesia, the entrenched and successful use of terror during the New Order regime (1965-1998) terrified the populace into not reporting enforced disappearances. Even with the change of government, 414 mostly unsolved cases of missing persons were documented in the restive province of Aceh alone from 1999 to 2005.

The decade-long civil war in Nepal from 1996 claimed 1,378 disappeared. On November 21, 2006, a Comprehensive Peace Accord ended the conflict and promised to clarify the fate of the disappeared within just 60 days.

Yet in December the following year the government was still at the stage of being required to set up a commission of investigation, a call repeated in various political agreements between various parties and factions including a landmark deal in November 2011. Still a commission into disappearances in Nepal has not been set up.

In the Philippines there have been at least 2,214 recorded cases of enforced disappearances, with at least 20 of these committed during the past three years under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino.

There has been progress here, however. After 17 long years of lobbying for an Anti-Enforced Disappearances Act, the law was finally signed off last year, becoming the first of its kind in Asia. But passing a law and enforcing it are two very different things in the Philippines, as in many countries in this region.

 

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Hear the voices of the oppressed

universal-declaration-of-human-rightsSince 1950, the United Nations has commemorated the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a “common standard of achievement for all people and all nations.”

Ironically, on its 64th anniversary today, millions of people around the world still long to realize at least the most basic of this common standard for humanity: the recognition of the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

The continuing uprisings in the Arab world, the protests sweeping major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all highlight deficiencies of human rights in governance and the non-recognition of peoples’ aspirations for inclusion and a desire for meaningful participation in public affairs that affect their lives.

Public demonstrations and assemblies are deeper than mere assertions of the individual’s civil, political, economic and cultural rights. They are demands to take part in decision-making, an assertion of a sovereign power that is abused by many state leaders.

Instead of settling issues through genuine dialogues and consultations, most governments trample basic freedom of expression, assembly and association in the guise of “national interests and security.”

Lately in Singapore, human rights defenders and bus drivers, He Jun Ling, Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying and Wang Xian Jie, who were employed by the state-controlled public transport operator SMRT Ltd., were charged in court with “inciting an illegal strike” among their co-workers. They protested against poor living conditions in company dormitories and low wages.

In Myanmar, authorities resorted to old violent methods in a clear attempt to silence growing dissent. Riot police attacked protest camps near the Letpadaung mine, setting camps on fire, burning protesting monks and arresting protest organizers Ko Wai Lu, Daw Shan Ma, Ko Myo Chit, Ko Ye Lin, Daw Naw Ohn Hla and Ko Nyi Nyi.

They were calling for environmental protection and reclaiming their lands that were confiscated by the joint venture of China’s Wanbao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.  There is continuing ethnic violence in Rakhine state and persecution of Rohingya people.

In the Philippines, extrajudicial executions of human rights defenders and mining activists continue. Armed men believed to be hired goons, or associated with private armies and paramilitary groups, carry out most of the killings. Appalling violations are perpetrated by soldiers acting on behalf of private corporations and/or on mere suspicions.

 

 

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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.

By Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

Guaranteed right and freedom of speech and expression has experienced “black Tuesday” on the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels in the Philippines.  This happened amid the mounting protest against the newly enacted Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or the Republic Act 10175.  This draconian legislation rightly infringes on the Bill of Rights under the Philippine 1987 Constitution; criminalizes netizens’ participation for good governance; and, does away with the concepts of freedom and justice within the moral bounds and teachings of great religions.  Even guardian angels would on Tuesday dare up doubling efforts prodding their charges on impending deluge brought about by this cybercrime law.

The world in general adheres to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  The Philippines guarantees such right saying, no laws shall be passed abridging it including that of the press and the rights of the people to petition the government for redress and grievances.  This includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

On 5th July this year the United NationsHuman Rights Council (UNHRC) unanimously approved a resolution that internet access and online freedom of expression is a basic human rights.  It declares that all people be allowed to connect to and express themselves freely on the Internet.

The Philippines, a third-term member of the Council, has just turned against the resolution when it signed its country’s cybercrime law on 12th September penalizing anyone from 4 to 12 year imprisonment or a fine of up to 1 million pesos if found violating the provisions of the law or posting defamatory comments on social networking sites such as facebook, tweeter and blogs.  It views online expressions as threats to government power rather than a tool in realizing power for the people and a unique platform in combating inequality, protection and fulfillment of a wide-range of human rights.  Insertions of provisions tantamount to censorship and ground for wanton abuse are contraventions of their avowed commitment to the international laws on human rights.  As the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression opined, the priority of governments should be the facilitation of Internet access for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible.

Today, legislators are scrambling for alibis as Filipino internet users warned of a Martial Law online.  They are carrying silent protests, blackening out their internet profiles, doing offline activities, petitioning the Supreme Court and marching in protest for the repeal of the just enacted cybercrime law for its unconstitutionality.  Guardian angels have a hand on it?  Maybe netizens post as “guardian angels” to other citizens. 

On Tuesday, the United Nations marked the “International Day in Support of Torture Victims.” It was a significant day filled with simple and substantial ironies.

In Manila, about 600 human rights advocates, military and police personnel “tortured” motorists who were stranded on a major thoroughfare while a procession demonstrating against torture passed.

A more significant irony was the declaration of the country’s police and military headquarters as “torture-free zones” even as detainees claimed the contrary.

Freedom from torture is neither a palliative nor a piece of legislation that a government brags about to hide its non-compliance. Freedom from torture is supposed to be a product of an organizational culture deeply imbedded in the practice of good policing and security service.

 

Read Full Article:  http://www.ucanews.com/2012/06/27/defeating-the-twisted-culture-of-torture/

26 June 2012

PRESS STATEMENT

In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly decided to mark this historic date and designated 26 June each year as International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

On this significant day, the Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas together with the human rights communities worldwide commemorates this important date in pushing through a much needed process of globalizing human rights and acknowledging torture, and all forms of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as absolutely prohibited and universally illegal.

Torture has no place in a civilized society like ours. But we are gravely concerned of its continuing practice not only to persons under investigation but against human rights defenders.

A recent case showed that farmer-leader Franklin Barrera, 18, claimed that he was abducted and tortured by the military. This happened on June 7, 2012 in Lopez, Quezon Province.

Barrera was allegedly hit in the nape with a rifle butt when he failed to identify the persons in the picture presented by the military. He claimed that he was forced to swallow three spoonful of salt and made to drink water to liquefy it. He managed to escape and was eventually confined at Doña Martha Memorial Hospital in Atimonan, Quezon.

Given this incident, we call not just for a reorientation but also reformation of our institutions in the work for human rights, particularly the protection and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders with the likes of Barrera.

Soon we hope that human rights defenders are truly considered partners in the creation 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.

In the latest United Nation’s process of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) last month, the Philippines claimed a decrease in the number of reported cases of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings; but, one victim of any human rights violations is too many. Efforts to prosecute perpetrators remain insufficient. And there is still much concern over slow convictions for human rights violations.

Up until now, cases involving Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr, who is accused of torture, killing and disappearance of political activists have not been resolved. Palparan is still at large.  Based on unconfirmed reports he is currently under the protection of close friends in the military and private individuals.

It is not a question of whether or not cases of torture have been lessened.  It is on how our government solves and permanently eradicates this procedure in their practices. The police and military should seriously respond to this challenge by identifying concrete steps, clear policy and truthful implementation of their sworn duty based on the international standards of human rights.

Finally, as a measure of sincerity to end cruel, degrading and inhuman act, the government especially President Benigno Aquino III must openly declare war against torturers, and yield them with appropriate penalties they deserve.###

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