(Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
On 29 May this year, the Philippine government’s human rights record will come under scrutiny by member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council. While the Philippine government paints a picture of an improved human rights situation in the country, Philippine human rights groups are saying otherwise.
Rights advocates are going to Geneva, Switzerland to present their case before the international community. Philippine UPR Watch, a network of human rights, faith-based and people’s organizations engaging in the Universal Periodic Review process of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), today said that “despite government human rights rhetoric, extrajudicial killings continue unabated and abject poverty has been increasingly pronounced since the last review cycle of the Philippines in 2008.”
In a press conference prior to the departure of the Phil. UPR Watch delegation for the United Nations in Switzerland, Fr. Rex RB. Reyes, co-head of the delegation and general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said that the alternative reports they submitted to the UNHRC outlined the continuing violations of the political, civil, and socio-economic rights and the non-compliance of the GPH to its rights treaty obligations.
“It has been four years since the first UPR on the Philippines and the human rights situation in the country manifests no real improvement. The climate and culture of impunity still reign. The whole world knows of the failure of the Aquino government to bring to justice human rights violators like Gen. Jovito Palparan and of the horrendous, less than 1% conviction rate of perpetrators of political killings on top of the snail-paced justice system. These are not things the Philipine government can be proud of before the international community,” Reyes commented.
Marie Enriquez, co-head of the delegation and Karapatan chairperson, chided the Armed Forces of the Philippines with its recent statements that its troops have not committed rights abuses in the past four months. “Such declarations are farthest from the truth as, on the ground, the horrid human rights situation remains, with such impunity, as there have been 76 extrajudicial killings and hundreds of rights violations perpetrated by the AFP, its paramilitary units and the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the Aquino presidency,” she stated.
According to Karapatan, among these 76 cases of EJKs are the killings of Aklan Municipal Councilor and Bayan Muna coordinator Fernando Baldomero; internationally renowned botanist Dr. Leonard Co; Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio; and of late, Higaonon leader Jimmy Liguyon. All of these cases remain pending either at the prosecutorial or court levels, while the state security forces and masterminds accountable for these crimes have yet to be put behind bars nor convicted.
KARAPATAN asserts “that the Aquino administration failed to render justice to victims and families of victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo government. In his more than one year in office, the government did not initiate filing of cases for human rights violations against known perpetrators, including former President Arroyo. It was the through the victims’ and their relatives’ credits that civil and criminal suits were filed against Arroyo and various military officers including the notorious General Jovito Palparan, Jr.”
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes pointed out that these violations on civil and political rights have always been consequences of clear violations of the socio-economic and cultural rights of the people.
“The Philippine government will report on how good its dole-out projects are. However, the world has witnessed the violent demoltion of homes in Metro Manila, including one that resulted in the death of a 19-year old youth in Silverio Compound in Paranaque. The violations of the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples continue under large-scale foreign mining. It also doesn’t help that the President himself has opposed any significant legislated wage increase while promoting cheap labor through contractualization,” Reyes said.
“Economic rights form an integral part of human rights and the Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The Philippine state will also have to be answerable to rising unemployment, poverty and hunger,” he added.
The network declared that “the Country Report is all so fine and nice on paper. There is this time not as much razzle dazzle and blaring trumpets that jump out of the paper to obscure the reality of a very bad human rights situation. In fact, the Report is as generally bland as it is largely meaningless to the victims.”