Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 33      Sept. 24 - 30, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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For gross and systematic human rights violations
UN Rights Body Hears Raps vs Arroyo Government

The complaints could go all the way to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and thereafter for appropriate action. As an organ of the UN General Assembly, the 47-member UNHRC may vote to suspend the membership of the Philippines in the council for gross and systematic violations of human rights.

By Bulatlat

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva has been in session to receive and deliberate on complaints filed by several people’s organizations in the Philippines against the Arroyo government for the string of extra-judicial killings, abductions and other human rights violations.

OFFENSIVE: Philippine NGO representatives have managed to put the Arroyo government on the defensive at the UNHRC session in Geneva, Switzerland

Although the complaints focus on major unsolved killings and enforced disappearances, latest reports show that the number of summary executions allegedly perpetrated by Arroyo military, police and paramilitary forces has reached 755 and 184 for enforced disappearances. The figures do not include other types of crimes against humanity reportedly perpetrated by the Arroyo security forces including torture, forcible evacuation of villages, illegal arrests and others.

The complaints could go all the way to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and thereafter for appropriate action. As an organ of the UN General Assembly, the 47-member UNHRC may vote to suspend the membership of the Philippines in the said council for gross and systematic violations of human rights.

Appearing before the UNHRC and in sessions presided by UN special rapporteurs and working groups this week were Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights); Edre Olalia, human rights lawyer from the Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties (CODAL); Danilo Ramos, secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement in the Philippines); Rhoda Dalang of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA); and Tess Vistro, secretary general of Amihan (Women Peasant Union).

The non-government delegation assailed on Sept. 22 the Arroyo government in its reply to a statement made by the UN-accredited Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and Forum Asia calling the attention of the Council to the rising cases of extrajudicial executions in the Philippines.

‘Actions of state agents’

The Arroyo government replied thus: “There is a need to distinguish between actions of state agents made in the course of their duties and common crimes or those committed for personal ends. It should be only after proper court trial that certain offenses are classified conclusively as human rights violations…In other words, accusation should not be equivalent to conviction.” 

The Philippine government, the delegates said, is trying to hide its culpability in these violations by insinuating that the extrajudicial executions going on in the country are cases involving "actions made by state agents in the course of their duties, common crimes or those committed for personal ends." 

This shows a very dangerous tack made by the Arroyo government to wash its hands off responsibility in these cases of extrajudicial executions, lawyer Olalia said in a message received by Bulatlat. 

“If we will go by the Philippine government's meaning of human rights violations as only those cases that have undergone ‘proper court trial’ before they are ‘classified conclusively as human rights violations,’ then this would deny the plain reality of extra-judicial executions happening in the country,” Olalia added.

No moral right

The statement by the Philippine government, the delegation also said, further supports the view that it has no moral right to sit as a member of the Human Rights Council. 

“Sweeping under the rug its responsibility in the horrible number of extrajudicial executions makes the Philippine government a very poor example of a state occupying such a position in the international body tasked to uphold the respect for and protection of human rights.  Its twisted understanding of or negation of such of human rights violations will lead to more impunity and more killings.  It has disgraced the Council and even undermines the role of UN mechanisms to address human rights violations,” the group said.

Complaints on the human rights violations were filed with the UNHRC, the delegation said, after exhausting all legal remedies in the Philippines without any results and because of the evident attempts by the alleged perpetrators not only to whitewash investigations but also to intimidate eyewitnesses as well as families of the victims.

The UNHRC was formed through a resolution of the UN General Assembly on March 5 this year replacing the UN Commission on Human Rights. Its mandate is to ensure that all member-states of the UN comply with their human rights obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Political Rights and other human rights instruments.

Based on complaints which may be filed by individual victims or NGOs against their own national governments, the UNHRC may recommend to the UN General Assembly any appropriate action. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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