‘Not enough,’ groups on UN body’s draft resolution on PH’s human rights

Absent in the proposed resolution is the recommendation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for the UN Human Rights Council to consider “options for international accountability measures.”


MANILA – Human rights groups expressed their disappointment over the tabled resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The tabled resolution which will be voted by the UNHRC’s 45th regular session was sponsored by member states Philippines, India and Nepal and non-member states Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Thailand and Turkey.

The tabled resolution acknowledges the “importance for the Government of the Philippines to ensure accountability for human rights abuses and violations, and in this regard to conduct independent, full and transparent investigations and to prosecute all those who have perpetrated serious crimes, including violations of human rights, in accordance with due process under national courts of law and its international human rights obligations.”

Absent in the proposed resolution is the recommendation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet for the UN Human Rights Council to consider “options for international accountability measures.”

In a report she presented in her report during the UNHRC 44th regular session last June, Bachelet noted the “absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms” to ensure the protection of human rights.

Bachelet and other UN special rapporteurs were not allowed to visit the Philippines to conduct independent investigations.

In an online media briefing Sept. 30, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, said the lack of substantive action from the proposed resolution might encourage more human rights violations in the country.

Domestic legal remedies not working

Edre Olalia, national president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), asserts that domestic legal remedies remain “very ineffective and frustrating for the victims of human rights abuses.”

Olalia also described the commissions that looked into the alleged human rights violations like the Administrative Order (AO) No. 35 of the Department of Justice as “seasonal, irregular and diversionary.”

The AO 35, created in 2012, formed the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons (IAC). Since then however, rights groups pointed out that many of the perpetrators of human rights violations are still not held accountable.

Mervin Toquero, program secretary of National Council of Churches in the Philippines also said that the families of victims of rights violations as well as the victims have also availed of all the remedies available to them but justice is still elusive.

Technical assistance

The tabled resolution also requests the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner to provide support to further improve the human rights situation in the Philippines. This include the proposed “United Nations joint programme on human rights to provide technical assistance and capacity-building for, inter alia, domestic investigative and accountability measures, data gathering on alleged police violations, engagement with civil society, national mechanism for reporting and follow-up, counterterrorism legislation, and human rights-based approaches to drug control.”

Olalia said that the resolution is not enough but not bad at all if the Philippine government will act on good faith and will not use the resolution to deodorize the human rights situation in the Philippines.

However, he said, as the term connotes, it will only extend technical assistance. “What do you expect when the party involved is part of the process? Will it cooperate and tell the whole world that they will file charges against their officials?” he said.

Asked if the resolution is a victory for the Philippine government, Olalia said he does not think so. He said that by engaging in this resolution, the Philippine government has admitted that “there is something very wrong in the human rights situation in the country.”

Not the end

Still, human rights defenders are not losing hope.

Toquero said the NCCP, whose members are also subjected to rights violations, will maximize tap their partners in the ecumenical movement especially in the international community for its campaign for justice and accountability.

Palabay said that even if this resolution may fall as merely a “technical cooperation,” it is also important that Bachelet will be given access to the Philippines to look into the situation.

For Olalia, the UNHRC 45th regular session is not the “end all and be all” for human rights defenders and the victims and their families.

“Don’t fret if we did not reach the ideal resolution. We will reach it [justice] in time,” he said.

The tabled resolution is still open for amendments. The UNHRC will vote for the adoption of the tabled resolution on Oct. 6 or 7.(https://www.bulatlat.com)

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