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Unrespected Declaration

Posted by lenolea on December 9, 2008

The Philippines is one of the first signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Hailed as the foundation of international human rights law, the UDHR is the first universal statement on the basic principles of inalienable human rights, and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

The Philippines is also one of the few nations to have ratified all of seven core human rights treaties strengthening the declaration. The seven core human rights treaties are as follows: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Convention against All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990).

This December 10, the world will mark the 60th anniversary of the UDHR. Has the Philippine government shown its deep commitment to UDHR and other human rights treaties?

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, in its 94th session in October this year, found the Philippine government guilty of violating article 2, paragraph 3; article 6, paragraph 1; and article 9, paragraph 1 of the ICCPR. The UN Committee decided on the complaint filed by families of slain human rights defenders Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy. Marcellana and Gumanoy were killed by alleged state forces in April 2003 in Mindoro Oriental.

Article 2, paragraph 3 of the ICCPR states, “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes:
(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity; (b) To ensure that any person claiming such a remedy shall have his right thereto determined by competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities, or by any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, and to develop the possibilities of judicial remedy; (c) To ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted.

While Article 6, paragraph 1 states, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” and Article 9, paragraph 1 says, “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

According to human rights group Karapatan, Marcellana and Gumanoy are only two of the 933 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo administration.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its concluding observations on the Philippines’ compliance with the ICESCR released Nov. 24 this year, also raised alarm over the killings.

It states, “The Committee remains concerned about reports that forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of trade union activists, indigenous leaders, peasant activists advocating for the implementation of the agrarian reform and human rights defenders engaged in defending the economic, social and cultural rights of their communities continue to occur, despite the measures adopted by the State party…”

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also noted the limited progress in investigating cases of forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings and in prosecuting the perpetrators of these crimes.

In a recent statement, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila de Lima admits that there has been “zero convictions” in all human rights violation cases being investigated by the CHR.

If the UN Human Rights Committee deemed that justice has been denied to Marcellana and Gumanoy by the Philippine government, hundreds more of families of victims of killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other rights abuses struggle against impunity.

From January 2001 to September this year, Karapatan has also documented 199 victims of enforced disappearances and 1,707 victims of illegal arrest and detention.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights likewise expressed concern on issues affecting millions of Filipinos such as the high poverty rate; decreasing national spending on social social services such as housing, health and education; discrimination and abuses faced by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in many countries of destination; the low levels of minimum wages, which, according to the Committee, are insufficient to provide an adequate standard of living for workers and their families, among others.

If the UN monitoring bodies found the Philippine government wanting in its international obligations, an independent international tribunal issued a stronger verdict.

At the Hague, the Netherlands on March 25, 2007, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) found both Philippine President Gloria M. Arroyo and U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr. and their respective governments as responsible for gross and systematic violations of human rights, economic plunder and transgression of the Filipino people’s sovereignty. The Tribunal deemed that the extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, massacres, torture and other atrocities allegedly committed by the Arroyo government are “crimes against humanity.”

Human rights groups, lawyers and civil libertarians from the academe have been pushing for the adoption of the principle of command responsibility in dealing with extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Command responsibility holds the superior responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates and for failing to prevent or punish those who did the crimes.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and chief executive, could not be ignorant of the counter-insurgency program that allows extrajudicial killings, abductions, filing of fabricated charges and other abuses.

Has the Philippine government shown its deep commitment to UDHR and other human rights treaties?

The world is not convinced.

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