Tag Archive: Universal Periodic Review


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.###

                     

Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)

SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue, U.P. Complex Diliman,

Quezon City, Philippines 1101

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review – Philippines

June 2012

A. The Commission on Human Rights 

1. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP)  is the national human rights institution in the country with “A” status accreditation.  CHRP was created under the 1987 Constitution to investigate human rights violations, monitor government compliance with international human rights obligations, provide human rights education and training, among others.  This independent submission is a product of internal deliberations as well as regional and national consultations with Civil Society.[1]

 

B. Institutional and Legal Framework for Human Rights, New Developments

2. Since the first UPR session on the Philippines,[2] Congress has passed a number of laws on human rights related to the UPR recommendations.[3] Other major human rights laws have yet to be enacted including the Commission on Human Rights Charter, compensation to victims of human rights violations, and laws on protection against extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearance and protections for internally displaced persons.

3.  The CHR has been given additional substantive roles under the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Torture Law, and IHL law. Without corresponding resources, these additional functions and the proposed prosecutorial mandate[4] would overburden the Commission and impair its effectiveness.  It still does not have full fiscal autonomy, its budget has been cut twice[5] and it lacks the power to determine its own organizational structure; all of which weaken its independence.  The long overdue CHR Charter bill[6] should be a priority as a long-term, institutional measure for human rights protection and promotion. Strengthening the National Human Rights Institution is a long-term measure for human rights protection and promotion.

C. Human Rights Protection and Promotion on the Ground

Related to UPR Recommendations

Recommendation  1[7] Violence against women, access to justice and rehabilitation and post-conflict care for women and children 

 4.  The Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act[8] has been upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. Despite training programs for the judiciary, some court decisions seem to reflect the preference of some judges to not apply this law and other laws, including the 1997 special law on rape. A Court of Appeals decision shows gender stereotyping and high requirements for a woman to establish the occurrence of rape and lack of consent.[9]

5.  The Magna Carta of Women[10] addresses many of the issues related to discrimination and violence against women.[11]  However, though the law provides that “measures to prosecute and reform offenders shall likewise be pursued,” it does not establish how to accomplish this.

6.  Three cases have been filed in the CEDAW committee and the government has yet to respond to a request for an invitation from the CEDAW Committee.

7.  Addressing special needs for rehabilitation and post-conflict care of women and children in vulnerable situations and conflict areas remains a challenge. The CHR will adopt a monitoring tool[12] to systematically monitor the situation of vulnerable groups including women and children.                                                                                       

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Submission by:   Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas

Related to:              The Philippines UPR Session: 13th Session of UPR, 21 May – 4 June 2012
Submitted:             28 November 2011

1.  The following submission has been prepared jointly by Front Line Defenders – the International Foundation for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas (HRDP) based on research carried out by these organisations and information received from independent human rights defenders in the Philippines from January 2008 to November 2011.

2.  Front Line Defenders (www.frontlinedefenders.org) is an international NGO based in Ireland with special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Front Line Defenders has particular expertise on the issue of security and protection of human rights defenders and works to promote the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by General Assembly resolution 53/144 of 9 December 1998.

3.  HRDP is a membership organisation of individual human rights defenders actively engaging in the promotion, defence, protection and fulfilment of “human rights for all” in the Philippines on various issues including civil, political, economic, social, cultural spheres or in the field of development and peace. It focuses on the protection of human rights defenders.

General trends facing human rights defenders

4.  Ms Margaret Sekkagya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, stated in her report to the 16th session of the Human Rights Council that “the Special Rapporteur remains seriously concerned regarding the persistent challenges faced by human rights defenders in the Philippines”.

5.  The threats against human rights defenders since the last UPR session on the Philippines in April 2008 remains unchanged.   Human rights defenders face extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, threats and intimidations, illegitimate restriction to the rights of freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Human rights defenders working in the field of peasants’ rights, land rights, and indigenous human rights defenders continue to face specific threats. The state security forces, including the military and the police, continue to abuse human rights defenders with impunity. The cases mentioned in this report were not properly investigated by the authorities and the perpetrators remained unpunished.

6.  Human rights defenders disregards of their geographical locations continue to be branded as working as fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as a way to dismiss their work and legitimate concerns. Defenders, working  specifically in the Southern Mindanao area, have been branded as members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. The security forces have used this rhetoric to implement their “shoot to kill” policy against human rights defenders.

Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and impunity

7.  At the first UPR review, the Philippines accepted the recommendation “to completely eliminate torture and extrajudicial killings” (Holy See) and “to intensify its efforts to carry out investigations and prosecutions on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible” (Switzerland). Despite this commitment, 23 cases of extra-judicial killings were documented from 2008 to 2011, claiming 30 victims.  In the same period, 79 cases of enforced disappearance were reported. Of these, 50 ended with the victim reappearing alive; in five cases the victim was found dead; and 24 remain missing.

8.  The Philippines, despite being a party to international human rights treaties, which impose a duty on the state to investigate alleged violations of the right to life, including extra-judicial killings, has provided human rights defenders with little or no protection. While soldiers, police, and militia members have been implicated in many of these killings, no member of the military active at the time of the killing has been brought to justice.

9.  While different statistics exist relating to the exact number of human rights defenders killed in recent years, human rights lawyers, journalists, union and community leaders, continue to be targeted and extra judicially killed or disappeared with impunity. These cases have not been treated with priority by the government. The authors of these killings are usually unidentified individuals on motorcycles, suspected of having ties with the army, the police and other law enforcement agencies.

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I. Description of the methodology and the consultation process followed for the preparation of information provided under the universal periodic review

1. This submission was prepared through facilitation of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) with assistance of the Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) in coordination with sixty-three (63) civil society organizations (see annex 1). Four (4) national workshops and consultations including one with Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) were conducted to gather inputs and recommendations for this report.

II. Issues and concerns on the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground and implementation of international human rights obligations

2. During this UPR review period, Philippines adopted domestic laws that mirror international human rights instruments, such as Anti-Torture Law or Republic Act 9745, criminalization of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) or Republic Act 9851, Magna Carta for Women, anti-child pornography law of 2009 and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

3. The Aquino government stated that human rights would be a pillar of his governance, a basis of his development plans and the core of the paradigm shift in the security sector. However, after one and a half years in power, it still has no clear human rights agenda with the draft National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) still waiting presidential approval.

4. Furthermore, human rights violations persist while the culture of impunity remains to be a glaring reality in the country. Factors behind this are the militarist and punitive approach in addressing the root causes of insurgency, weak exercise of command responsibility and poor implementation of laws. Police and military forces continue to be among the top human rights violators as shown in the records of the CHRP. Human rights enjoyment also suffers due to lack of harmonization of and conflicts in the implementation of laws, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Mining Act of 1995.

5. In a study of Atty. Parreño, among the 305 incidents of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) from 2001 to August 2010, 32% of victims were activists while 10% were farmers. This only shows that civil and political rights (CPR) violations such as EJKs and enforced disappearances could often be traced to suppression of people’s assertion and claiming of their economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.

6. The Philippines also failed to adopt its NHRAP that would have given direction to the State to implement its obligations under the rights of children, women, migrants, indigenous peoples, and lesbians, gays, bi-sexual, and trans-gender (LGBT), persons with disabilities as well as the rights to life, food, health, education and work. Concomitantly, there is lack of decisiveness and haphazard approach by State agents in following-up the implementation of the accepted recommendations from the last UPR.

7. The absence of a National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM) composed of the CHRP, government agencies, security sector, and civil society, exacerbated by the non-passage of a law on the right to information and lack of transparency in complaint processes has eroded the substance of human rights pronouncements and encouraged impunity to thrive.

8. The State has to fully integrate and consistently use the rights-based approach in its governance, legislative and development plans.

9. Government also needs to harness the potential of civil society by reinstating CSOs’ participation in the revitalized Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) and encouraging CHR deputization of human rights defenders (HRDs).

10. Finally, the State has to maximize the expertise and material assistance of the United Nations and its member nations, such as inviting the UN Special Rapporteurs, e.g., the Special Rapporteur in Promoting Human Rights while Combating Terrorism and the Special Rapporteur on Disability.

III. Achievements, best practices, challenges and constraints in relation to the previous review’s recommendations

To read more. Please click this link:   Joint CSO Report to 2nd UPR_cycle

By: Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

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

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

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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

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

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