Tag Archive: Philippines


Greed of the few endangers happiness of the many…

 

The world marked the International Day of Peace last week, on September 21, the same day the Philippines marked the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law.

This year, the United Nations called on countries around the world to work for “sustainable peace for a sustainable future.” The UN statement highlighted the use and abuse of land and natural resources in instigating conflict situations.

The UN urged member states to initiate “ceasefires” and stop the wanton destruction of the environment and the bloody massacres of people out to defend their ancestral domains.

Early this month, gunmen ambushed a Subanen tribal leader in the southern Philippines. Timuay Locenio Magda survived but his 11-year-old son Jason did not.

The incident allegedly arose from a dispute over ancestral domain claims among mining interests in the area. The attack on Magda was the 36th documented incident in the area in the past two years.

In South Korea, villagers of Gangjeong have been protesting the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island. The island has been dubbed the “Island of Peace” by the government but peaceful protests were met with force and violence.

In Cambodia, the government’s abuse of law and misuse of the courts have led to the displacement of the Boeung Kak and Borei Keila communities in Phnom Penh. Activists and human rights defenders like Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony, who were arrested on September 4 and 5, respectively, are also persecuted.

In Myanmar, Wai Lu was arrested in early September for helping farmers win back their land from a copper mining company in Latpadaung mountain range.

Attacks against communities underscore the connection of peace, human rights and the aggressive promotion of “progress” that displace people. And as conditions of people worsen, governments create “illusions” to cover up their violations and obligations.

Governments speak of peace and draw a future that is far removed from the aspirations of their people. Peace has been corrupted by political and economic individualism and greed, yet it remains a symbol of resistance and a source of courage for the afflicted.

Peace and sustainable future describes the legitimacy of the continuing struggle of indigenous peoples, communities and environmental activists in protecting ancestral land, their life, culture and future against corporations and armed groups.

Peace provides reason for the assertion of communities and peoples who debunk the idea of peace as a mere construct. These communities assert that peace is an action fueled by inspirations and sacrifices of peoples and nations searching for a sustainable future.

As the world celebrates the “International Day of Peace,” peoples around the world continue to clamor for it, act on it and die for it.

In the same manner, Filipinos remember the 20 years of martial law to remind themselves that tyrants can be overthrown, people have the power, and peace is a possibility.

 

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On September 21, the world commemorates the “International Day of Peace”.  All nations, governments, private and non-governmental organizations and individuals are enjoined to observe secession of hostilities through activities celebrating the ideals of peace.  This event coincides with the anniversary of the dark period of Philippines history when the Dictatorship regime of President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972.  The country fell to “silence”.  Peace was fear.

Today, the UN calls for “sustainable peace for sustainable future”, highlighting the use and abuse of land and natural resources in instigating conflict situations around the world.  It calls all its member-states to initiate “ceasefires” and let up to the wanton destruction of environment and the bloody massacre of people defending ancestral domains.  The call falls into silence.  Peace is a dream.

Weeks ago, a Subanen Tribal leader in the Philippines, Timuay Locenio Magda was ambushed killing his 11-year old son Jason by unknown assailants in the Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.  The incident is alleged to have instigated over dispute on ancestral domain claim with several mining companies on the sacred Pinukis Range Forest – a watershed for 3 major rice-growing regions in Zamboanga Peninsula.  His is the 36th case documented in the area alone under the present administration.

For 6 years now, villagers of Gangjeong, South Korea are protesting the construction of a naval base in Jeju Island, declared the Island of Peace by the same government.  Peaceful protests are continually met with force and violence.

In Cambodia, the government’s abuse of law and misuse of the courts has led to the displacement of the Boeung Kak and Borie Keila communities in Phnom Penh.  Such practice is extended to persecute activists and human rights defenders like Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony, who were arrested on September 4 and 5, respectively, on dubious charges.

Early September in Myanmar, Wai Lu was arrested for helping farmers win back their land from a copper mining company in Latpadaung mountain range allegedly under the country’s Religious Offenses Act.

Attacks against communities underscore the connection of peace, human rights and the aggressive promotion of “progress” that misplaces people in the development process.  As conditions of people worsen, governments create further magical illusion covering up their violations and obligations.  They speak of peace and draw a future far from the aspiration of people struggling to survive and live with dignity.  Peace is corrupted by political and economic individualism and greed.  Yet, it remains a symbol of resistance and a source of courage for the afflicted.

Peace and sustainable future describes the legitimacy of the continuing struggle of indigenous peoples, communities and environment activists in protecting ancestral land, their life, culture and future against corporations and armed groups.  Peace provides the assertion of communities and peoples as the center of development.  It debunks the idea of peace as a mere construct.  It asserts that peace is an action fueled by inspirations and sacrifices of peoples and nations searching for a sustainable future.

As the 31st International Day of Peace is celebrated, peoples in various parts of the globe continue to clamor for it, act on it and die for it.  In the same manner, Filipinos are to remember Martial law on its 40th  year (Remember ML@40), the world must recall that indeed, tyrants can be overthrown, people have the power, and peace is a possibility.  As the dark days linger on with peace remaining elusive and a future bleak, everybody needs to consolidate the lessons of history, muster the courage to block its horrors and lay down a solid foundation for peace mindful of the universal dignity of all and for all.

Political will plus conviction of all can achieve the goal of a free and just society
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     Renato Mabunga, Manila Philippines February 17, 2012

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Recent developments in Myanmar have brought to the fore a growing movement in previously isolated countries in Southeast Asia.

These countries have had no choice but to reach out and work together, either voluntarily or involuntarily, because of the emergence of new regional alliances, advances in telecommunications, biotechnology and transportation that has prompted unprecedented demographic shifts.

Countries like the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, which all have suffered from extreme poverty and illiteracy, are now starting to talk more openly and loudly about human rights protection, though their performance on this issue still fails to meet  international expectations and the subject is still treated in a selective, if not politicized, manner.

Most of these governments continue to hide behind the cloak of “non-interference in national affairs” when confronted with compliance to international laws. What continues to be generally lacking is the political will and conviction to apply governance based on a rights-based approach.

Issues are tackled devoid of sincerity and accountability. They are handled as political gimmickry often at the expense of the basic entitlements of the people. “Active” citizens have not been developed. People seldom know their rights while education, an essential precondition for the implementation of human rights, continues to be wanting.

A comprehensive and integrated approach is called for in the region to develop education and subsequently human rights.  A similar effort is called for to bring about changes in attitudes.

In this part of the world, states need to ensure domestic mechanisms and remedies are in place. Mechanisms should lay out the principles of consultation, non-discrimination and active participation of stakeholders.

Democratic institutions should take root and perform their mandate free from political influence or “pay-offs.” Processes need to be people-centered, participatory and environmentally sound, and not only focused on economic growth.

Priority must be given to poverty elimination, integration of women into the development process, self-reliance and self-determination of people and governments, and to the protection of the rights of vulnerable groups.

Proposed plans of action and programs coming from these countries must be deliberated carefully and costed.

Civil society and non-governmental organizations should also play a vital role in shaping and evolving a democracy. Their credibility lies in responsible and constructive engagements with grassroots movements

There are many challenges today when it comes to incorporating human rights in the affairs of state. Basic to all of these is the knowledge that human rights are a responsibility of all, for all.

continue reading: http://www.ucanews.com/2012/02/17/rights-challenges-in-southeast-asia/

 

Debt Payments and Under-spending

Almost all throughout post-EDSA era, 1986-1995 and 1999-2012, total debt service exceeded spending for both economic services and social services. Supposed additional funds for economic services to spur growth and for investment in the country’s human capital in the form of social services are instead used for debt payment, some of which for questionable loans.

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(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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By Renato G. Mabunga, Ph.D.

Introduction:

The 1987 Philippine Constitution speaks elaborately of the right to education.  It vows to “…protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and… take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all… (1987 Philippine Constitution, Article XIV).  In principle, the Philippines takes cognizance of the normative characteristics or elements by which the right to education is founded namely: quality education, accessibility of the right and non-discrimination.  By being so, bonded itself to the obligatory nature in realizing the right both legally and politically.

The Philippine, as a state signatory to various instruments providing normative contents to the right to education, is bound by all these treaties and declarations to provide legislative as well as administrative frameworks for the realization of this right.  It must concretize its commitment to promote, protect and fulfill human rights in its development plans.

Politically, according to the Right to Education Project (2008), right to education is also an enabling right.  It “creates the “voice” through which rights can be claimed and protected’, and without education people lack the capacity to ‘achieve valuable functionings as part of the living.”[i] The state is therefore, impelled to muster political will for the realization of this right.  This is the framework by which we shall revisit the state of Philippine Education in the year 2011.

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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

Taking Part of a “Revolution”

By Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

Bloggers’ network and various human rights organizations in the Philippines launch HRonlinePH movement and portal on 1st December 2011 at Crystal Ship Café, Quezon City.  Started as a simple discussion of ideas of promoting human rights online, a group of enthusiastic bloggers and human rights defenders found each other, shared information on human rights and formed HROnlinePH.   Today, it finds its niche as an effective resource on the country’s human rights condition.

Internet and social media play an important role in information-communication today.  There has been an upsurge in the number of sites, and now HRonlinePH joins the larger movement of electronic campaign.  HRonlinePH draws its activities through individual opinions of bloggers, facebook members, and twitters’ network on current Philippine issues.  It is also highlighted by facilitation of various statements, position papers and campaign advocacies of organizations of various political traditions and affiliations to land a spot in both the print media and the digital world.  It interfaces with the other human rights websites and resources online, and organizational identity in an attempt to promote an issue that best captures international human rights principles.

HROnlinePH (or Human Rights Online Philippines) is a movement specialized to promoting and protecting human rights in the Philippines through Information Resources Online.  As a movement, it may fan a successful revolution as exemplified by the Arab Spring.  Yet, it knows so well, that it is not THE revolution where human rights may find its place in the hearts of the States.  It  may be a part; it can be a part; and for HRonlinePH, it must be an essential part of winning a battle for the dignity of persons.

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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

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