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.
Philippine NGO representatives have managed to put the Arroyo
government on the defensive at the UNHRC session in Geneva,
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).
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
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