Groups Hit Gov’t before UN body


Leaders of two progressive organizations went to Geneva, Switzerland to raise ‘Philippine government’s violations to human rights and economic, social and cultural rights’ before the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) by its States parties.

All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially within two years of accepting the Covenant and thereafter every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”.

The Committee meets in Geneva and normally holds two sessions per year, consisting of a three-week plenary and a one-week pre-sessional working group.

Leaders of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) and the human rights group Karapatan attended a briefing of the CESCR. The Philippine government presented its report Nov. 11.

Among the issues raised by Bayan and Karaptan were the false charges filed against activists from Southern Tagalog and Metro Manila. Seventy-two activists were charged with murder and frustrated murder in connection with a raid by the New People’s Army in Mindoro Oriental. Five have already been arrested, including labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU-May First Movement).

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. highlighted the government’s failure to implement a genuine agrarian reform program. Meanwhile, Karapatan Secretary General Marie Enriquez linked poverty to rampant human rights abuses.

Reyes said, “We hope that the committee would see that the so-called economic growth under the Arroyo government is shallow and does not reflect any meaningful distribution of wealth. The country and its poor are more vulnerable now to the global financial crisis gripping the world economy.”

When asked by a committee member if being a human rights defender was a dangerous job in the Philippines, Enriquez answered in the affirmative and cited the case Southern Tagalog activists.

Enriquez said, “Those that the government were not able to kill, they are now trying to put behind bars. This includes human rights defenders such as labor leaders, farmers, women activists, and even lawyers. We believe that the legal offensive in Southern Tagalog is being orchestrated by the Inter Agency Legal Action Group or IALAG, an agency UN Rapporteur Philip Alston already recommended for abolition.”

She said that extrajudicial killings, while numerically on a decline, continue in some parts of the country.(

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