Act on 400 Rights Complaints Now, DoJ Asked

The justice department is being asked to act expeditiously on several human rights complaints submitted by the CHR for prosecution “so that justice will be served on the victims and their surviving kin and those found guilty meted out corresponding punishment.”

BY BULATLAT

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has been urged to prosecute suspects in at least 425 human rights complaints that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) had submitted to the department.

In a statement of concern they signed in a recent round-table discussion, at least 22 individuals including lawyers, academicians, journalists and church people asked the DoJ “to act expeditiously on numerous cases already submitted by the CHR for prosecution so that justice will be served on the victims and their surviving kin and those found guilty meted out corresponding punishment.”

Signing the statement were, among others, Teresita Ang-See of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO); Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, 2006 National Artist; Sr. Angelina T. Navarro, ICM: UP Faculty Regent Prof. Roland Simbulan; Gen. (ret.) Romeo Padiernos; Dr. Delen dela Paz, chair of the human rights alliance Karapatan; former CHR Commissioner Nasser Marohomsalic; Dean Carmen Abubakar of UP’s Institute of Islamic Studies; and former UP Dean Fatima Castillo.

May Cristina Rodriguez, director of the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) and and Ruth Cervantes of Karapatan also signed.

The statement was signed at the end of the round-table discussion on the “Crisis in the Rule of Law and the Deteriorating Human Rights Situation” held last Sept. 25 at the University of the Philippines’ law center in Quezon City.

Guest speaker and CHR head commissioner, Purificacion Quisumbing, said that if the Melo Commission is “mellow” in probing into the spate of extra-judicial executions and disappearances, the CHR is not.

Some members of the CHR, a constitutional body, have openly criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s formation of the Melo Commission last Aug. 21 for duplicating the CHR’s role. They asked that CHR’s ongoing investigation of extra-judicial executions, abductions and disappearances that have victimized leftist activists be supported by government instead.

Under fire

Headed by retired Supreme Court associate justice Jose Melo, the probe body has likewise come under fire from leftist groups and rights watchdogs for being powerless and for apparently serving only to clear the presidency and armed forces generals from the killings.

In the same UP forum, Quisumbing also cited government’s failure to honor its obligations provided in seven core international treaties related to human, civil, economic and political rights. She agreed that absent any fair investigation and other legal processes in the Philippines, victims of human rights violations and their kin can file complaints with international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (or UNHRC).

Lawyer Harry Roque, on the other hand, reminded government authorities that international treaties that remained unsigned or unratified in the Philippines have universal application and are therefore deemed in effect in the country.

One major international treaty that was not endorsed by Macapagal-Arroyo for Senate ratification is the Rome Treaty of 2002 which establishes the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Roque, head of the UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies (IILS), recently figured in the detention by U.S. immigration authorities of Macapagal-Arroyo’s former agriculture undersecretary, Joc-joc Bolante. The lawyer is reportedly working for the extradition of Bolante in order to face Philippines Senate investigation over the alleged embezzlement of USAID agriculture funds for the presidential campaign of Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

UN complaints

The UP forum was held as the human rights alliance, Karapatan, along with people’s organizations led the filing of complaints with the UNHRC in Geneva mid-September. The complaints pointed to the responsibility of the Macapagal-Arroyo government in the serial killings and abductions of leftist activists, organizers and party-list coordinators. Based on documentation since 2001, the number of persons killed in extra-judicial killings has reached 762; about 184 persons have been reported missing and believed to have been abducted by government forces.

The spate of human rights violations has drawn broad international concern, with both Amnesty International and recently the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch calling for immediate, independent and impartial investigation of the cases. Under pressure by European governments, Macapagal-Arroyo has agreed to the establishment of an international investigate committee to look into the killings and other atrocities.

The statement of concern also supported the mission of non-government human rights organizations in defending the people’s civil and political rights, in the investigation of human rights violations and in the quest for justice for the victims of human rights violations and their families. The signatories also asked the government to strengthen its Witness Protection Program as a step toward the judicious resolution of crime cases and rendering justice as well as restoring the people’s trust in the justice system.

The UP forum was sponsored by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) together with MRPO; the UP Institute of International Legal Studies; Philippine Political Science Association; UP Manila Political Science Committee; AI-Philippines and Karapatan. Bulatlat

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