“The Philippine government is boasting that it is a signatory to the nine core conventions of the UN and yet, it violates these conventions,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairwoman of Karapatan, said.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The case of Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez is the second case where the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) found the Philippine government guilty of violating human rights.
The human rights defender and campus journalist was killed on April 5, 2002, along with three others, in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato. Elements of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) led by the 7th Airborne Battalion of the 12th Special Forces of the Philippine Army were identified as perpetrators.
Finding the legal proceedings inefficient and prolonged, the family, through Karapatan, submitted the case to the UNHRC, which monitors the State party’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In its recent ruling, the UNHRC found the Philippine government guilty of violating the right to life of Hernandez.
Earlier in October 2008, the UNHRC also issued a ruling on the murder of human rights worker Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy.
The two victims, together with three others, were abducted in Maibon, Naujan on April 21, 2003. The bodies of Marcellana and Gumanoy were found the next day in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental. Witnesses point to the “Bonnet Gang,” a paramilitary group under the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion of which then Col. Jovito Palparan Jr. was the commanding officer.
In its decision on the Marcellana-Gumanoy case, the UNHRC said the facts reveal violations by the Philippine government of the right to life of every person, the right to liberty and security of persons and the rights of violated persons to effective remedies and the State ensuring that such remedies are provided and enforced as stated in the provisions of the ICCPR.
The UNHRC further declared that the Philippine government “is under an obligation to provide the authors [families of victims] with an effective remedy, including initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings to establish responsibility for the kidnapping and death of the victims, and payment of appropriate compensation. The State party should also take measures to ensure that such violations do not recur in the future.”
Two years after, the Philippine government has not complied with the UNHRC’s recommendations, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairwoman of Karapatan and representative of the complainants, told Bulatlat.
The UNHRC asked the Philippine government to submit, within 180 days, the measures it undertook to comply with the decision. On the 180th day, the families and members of Karapatan went to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to follow up the case. “Then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez could not even remember the case even as his office dismissed the charges against the perpetrators three times,” Enriquez said.
Palparan, M/Sgt. Donald Caigas, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario were among those identified by survivor-witnesses.
The case was elevated to the Office of the President on May 24, 2007 but no action was taken.
‘Bastardizing the UN’
Enriquez said the Philippine government is ‘bastardizing the UN’ by ignoring the decisions of the UNHRC.
“The Philippine government is boasting that it is a signatory to the nine core conventions of the UN and yet, it violates these conventions,” she said. “The country even sits as a member of the UNHRC. All they [government representatives] do is for show.”
The human rights leader said the Philippine government must be sanctioned by the UNHRC.
As to the recent ruling on Hernandez’s case, Enriquez said the Philippine government must comply with the UNHRC decision.
In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) called for the enforcement of UNHRC decisions on the two cases.
“The findings of the UNHRC on these two cases that the state’s authority to investigate, prosecute and resolve human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, is ineffective and tainted with unreasonable delays, thus it does not bar the filing of complaints in international fora even before domestic remedies are impractically exhausted. This sets a significant precedent and doctrine. It wiould encourage human rights victims and their families all over the world to seek international recourse especially if domestic remedies are frustratingly prolonged or even illusory” Edre U. Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said.
Enriquez flew to Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 6 to meet with foreign delegations and international human rights organizations regarding the current human rights situation. (Bulatlat.com)