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(PHILIPPINES) A female Human Rights Defender in the Agrarian Reform Sector is brutally murdered

15 Nov

URGENT APPEAL

November 12, 2013

ISSUES: Human Rights Defenders; Harassment and Intimidation; Agrarian Reform; Land Grabbing

___________________________________

Dear friends,

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) is forwarding to you an appeal regarding the killing of a female human rights defender in Quezon Province.

If you wish to make any inquiries please contact the Research, Documentation and Information Program of TFDP, kindly send email to tfdp1974@gmail.com or call +632 4378054/9950246.

___________________________

Case Title: Tulid HRD Killing

Case: Killing of a Human Rights Defender (Non-State Actor)

Name of Victim: Elisa Lascoña Tulid

Date of Incident: October 19, 2013

Place of Incident: Sitio Kumbenyo, Barangay Tala, San Andres, Quezon Province

Alleged Perpetrators: Rannie Bugnot, in connivance with Edwin Ausa (suspected henchman)

_________________________________

Account of the Incident:

A female human rights defender in the agrarian reform sector and leader of the peasant group Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Barangay Tala at Camflora, was murdered on October 19, 2013, at 2:00pm in Sitio Kumbenyo, Barangay Tala, SanAndres, Quezon Province.

Elisa L. Tulid, 37, of Sitio Kabulihan, Barangay Tala, was shot point-blank by a certain Rannie Bugnot, and was pronounced dead on the spot.

According to witnesses, moments before the shooting incident, Elisa together with her husband Danny Boy, 46, and daughter Melanie, 4, were seen walking on their way home from Sitio Tamnay. Apparently the three sought the service of a repairman to restore their traditional plough used in farming.

When they reached Sitio Kumbenyo, the couple was surprised when Bugnot blocked their path. Without any warning, Bugnot pointed his gun at Danny Boy. The lone gunman fired three gunshots, but luckily Danny Boy was able to run a few meters from the scene. Their daughter Melanie was pushed by Elisa and was able to flee in another other direction.

Danny Boy thought that Rannie will spare his wife. He was shocked when he saw the gunman shoot his wife at short range. Danny Boy was helpless and could not do anything to save the life of his wife.

Danny Boy immediately rushed to the military camp in Barangay Tala to seek help and report the incident. The military called the police and requested their assistance.  The police eventually arrested Bugnot at their house in San Andres.

At around 4:00pm, Danny Boy with some military personnel went to the crime scene. There they met the police and saw the dead body of Elisa lying on the ground.

Elisa suffered gunshot wounds in the nape, mouth, left eye and left thigh.

Additional Information:

Motive of the Killing

Elisa and her clan had long been receiving death threats and harassment from paid goons of influential claimants. Influential landlord-claimants have long targeted this public land and have continuously deceived the farmers that they are the real landowners.

According to the staff of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services (QUARDDS), Elisa together with farmer groups has a longstanding dispute with an alleged land grabber named Edwin Ausa and his trustee Rannie Bugnot.

It started when Edwin and Elisa had a confrontation in a meeting at the DENR office to recognize their land rights. Elisa together with other farmers submitted documents and proof that they were the ones who developed and improved the land they tilled. On the other hand, Edwin submitted none but insisted that the land is supposedly owned by their clan. Embarrassed of not having evidence of his claim, he started to threaten Elisa and her colleagues.

In 2012, Elisa filed a complaint before the Barangay Council against Edwin Ausa, Rannie Bugnot, et al., when the group took the coconuts cultivated by Elisa’s family without consent.

In the same year, Edwin harassed Elisa’s family when he filed criminal charges against her father Guillermo Castanas Guinoo, 72, for grave threats. Guillermo was detained and eventually released due to his old age.

Since then, Elisa received a number of death threats from Edwin and his group. He told the Tulids that he will kill all of them if they still remain and continue fighting for the land which they (Tulids) developed and improved.

Hours before the killing of Elisa, residents spotted Edwin and Sonny Hanabahab on a motorcycle and carrying a bag apparently with a hard object inside suspiciously go towards Barangay Tala where Rannie resides.

Although there is yet no evidence for the actual participation linking Edwin Ausa to the killing of Elisa, the people claimed and stressed that he has something to do with the case, and since Elisa and other farmers were continuously threatened and coerced by Edwin and his group.

Current Situation of Family Members

Elisa’s husband Danny Boy together with four (4) others is presently staying at the house of his brother in the nearby municipality.

Elisa’s youngest daughter Melanie, 4, is possibly experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. Family members often observe that the child instantly panics and gets frightened whenever she hears a firecracker or loud noise from things that fall or drop. Melanie wakes up in the middle of her sleep crying. She often cries out the name of her mother.

Danny Boy on the other hand looks anxious and fearful.

Land Dispute Backgrounder

Bondoc Peninsula lies at the southern tip of Southern Tagalog, 222,254 hectares in size, with 355,158 population and 70,688 households. Eighty percent of the households there were into subsistence farming (mostly coconut and banana monocropping) and fishing.

There exists a persistent feudal exploitation brought about by an extreme insufficiency of information on basic rights of tenants and an absence of viable mechanisms for resolving agrarian reform-related conflict.

Domingo Reyes is one of the biggest landholdings in Bondoc Peninsula with family holdings estimated at 12,000 to 16,000 hectares in three municipalities (Buenavista, San Narciso and San Andres, consisting of 10 barangays and 30 sub-villages).  Before 1996, not a single hectare was included in the agrarian reform program because of the landowner’s “fearsome reputation.” Out of fear, not one tenant wanted to apply for agrarian reform coverage. Tightly guarded, the lands are hard to penetrate.   A sharing of 60-40 prevails in the Villa Reyes property where 60% of the total harvest goes to the landowner, while the tenant shoulders the production expenses.

In 2004, the settlers filed a petition that they should be covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). The farmer-tenants started to boycott and stopped giving the 60% share of harvest to the Reyes clan after Elisa and other settlers learned from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that portions of the land claimed by Reyes were declared as public land. The DENR also certified these lands as timberland (2005-2006).

Elisa was in the forefront of the struggle of the land occupants to take possession of the government land through the process set forth by the DENR.

Theories have surfaced that the gunman Rannie Bugnot and Edwin Ausa are both henchmen of the Reyes clan. Farmers alleged that since they learned that the land claimed by the Reyes are alienable and disposable public lands, also considering the farmer-settlers’ application to acquire the land is underway, Reyes’ has no other option but to acquire the service of these henchmen by giving them a ‘fair share’ of the land, just to sow terror in the community so that farmers will discontinue their land right claims and eventually leave the land they currently are in possession.

REQUESTED ACTION:

Please write a letter to the following authorities, calling on them to initiate inquiries into the case of the brutal murder of Elisa Lascoña Tulid. Likewise, urge concerned agencies to immediately resolve the land conflict.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ____________,

I am writing to draw your attention regarding a female human rights defender in the agrarian reform sector and leader of the peasant group Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Barangay Tala at Camflora, who was murdered on October 19, 2013, at 2:00pm in Sitio Kumbenyo, Barangay Tala, San Andres, Quezon Province. Elisa L. Tulid, 37, of Sitio Kabulihan Barangay Tala, was shot point-blank by a certain Rannie Bugnot, and was pronounced dead on the spot.

I have learned that Elisa was in the forefront of the struggle of the land occupants to take possession of the government land through the process set forth by the land and environment agencies such as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

I have also learned that Elisa, her family and other farmers had long been receiving death threats and harassment from paid goons of influential land claimants.

It was also brought to my attention that Elisa together with farmer groups has a longstanding dispute with an alleged land grabber named Edwin Ausa and his trustee Rannie Bugnot (the gunman). Theories have also surfaced that the gunman Rannie Bugnot and Edwin Ausa are both henchmen of the Reyes clan who owns one of the biggest landholdings inBondoc Peninsula with family holdings estimated at 12,000 to 16,000 hectares in three municipalities such as Buenavista, San Narciso and San Andres, consisting of 10 barangays and 30 sub-villages.

At present, Elisa’s youngest daughter Melanie, 4, is possibly experiencing post traumatic stress disorder. According to family members, they observe that the child instantly panics and gets frightened whenever she hears a firecracker or loud noise. They often see Melanie when she wakes up, in the middle of her sleep, crying. Also, she often cries out the name of her mother.

Therefore, I humbly urge you to initiate a probe into the brutal murder of Elisa L. Tulid and that government authorities ensure no repeat of such incident. I urge authorities to probe deeply into the link of the alleged gunman with interest groups including a certain Edwin Ausa and the Reyes clan.

Also, we would like to appeal that the government should recognize the initiatives of farmers in observing the agrarian reform processes and to immediately resolve the land dispute.

I look forward to you urgent action is this case.

Respectfully yours,

_________________________

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

Please send your letters to:

1.    Hon. Benigno Simeon Aquino III

President

Republic of the Philippines

Malacanang Palace

JP Laurel Street, San Miguel

Manila 1005

Philippines

Fax: +63 2 736 1010

Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

Email: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

2.    Secretary Virgilio R. Delos Reyes

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)

Elliptical Road, Diliman, Quezon City

Philippines

Fax: +63 2 920 0380

Tel:  +63 2 929 3460; 928 7031, Local 401

e-mail: secretary@dar.gov.ph / gildlr2010@gmail.com

3.    Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Visayas Avenue, Diliman,

Quezon City 1100

Philippines

Tel. No. 920-4352, 926-2688,

926-2535, 925-2329

Fax No. 920-4301

Trunkline No. 929-6626 Local 2258, 2272, 2146

Email: osec@denr.gov.ph

4.    Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales

Commission on Human Rights (CHR)

SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue

U.P. Complex, Diliman

Quezon City

Philippines

Tel: +63 2 928 5655, +63 2 926 6188

Fax: +63 2929 0102

Email: rosales.chr@gmail.com

5.   Police Director General Alan LA Madrid Purisima

Chief, Philippine National Police

Camp General Rafael Crame

Quezon City, Philippines

Fax: +63 2 724 8763/ +63 2 723 0401

Tel: + 63 2 726 4361/4366/8763

Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

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Vetoed bill protecting rights of IDPs revived in Congress

21 Oct

By Kathrina Alvarez (sunstar.com)

Friday, October 18, 2013

MANILA — To help fast track the recovery of calamities and armed conflicts victims, party-list lawmakers on Friday revived the proposed Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Act earlier vetoed by President Benigno Aquino III.

Akbayan party-list Representatives Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello said their House Bill 3146 is a timely proposal following the destruction brought about by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu City this week.

Gutierrez said the number of families displaced underscores the primacy and urgency to institute legal safeguards for the quake victims.

The lawmakers also cited the crisis in Zamboanga where members of the Nur Misuar-led faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) tried to take over the city.

 

Read Full Article:  http://www.sunstar.com.ph/breaking-news/2013/10/18/vetoed-bill-protecting-rights-idps-revived-congress-309291?fb_action_ids=10151887130227707&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=.UmSfFsiKW9c.like&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210151887130227707%22%3A532763193478070%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210151887130227707%22%3A%22og.recommends%22%7D&action_ref_map=%7B%2210151887130227707%22%3A%22.UmSfFsiKW9c.like%22%7D

PHILIPPINES: DIVIDED LEADERSHIP AND LACKLUSTRE PERFORMANCE

19 Oct

By Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)[1]

I.          General Overview

President Benigno Aquino III considered 2012 a year of continued resurgence of the economy bolstered with increased confidence in good governance. He took pride in the dramatic leaps the country has taken in the global competitive index of the World Economic Forum; the unprecedented attainment of investment-grade status from the most respected credit ratings agencies in the world; and the astounding 6.8 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2012.[2]

Amidst this enthusiasm, cases of extra-judicial killings (EJK), enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests as well as other political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights violations increase halfway into the Aquino administration. What becomes alarming “is the growing number of threats and killings of rights defenders” as observed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and on extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns.[3]

In 2012 alone, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) reported 43 cases of EJK involving 48 victims; 14 cases of Enforced Disappearance involving 17 victims; and, 39 cases of Torture involving 63 victims. There were 65 documented cases of arrest and detention by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines involving 133 individuals. The spate of arrests came after theDepartment of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of National Defense (DND) announced its Php467 million bounty for some undisclosed list of 235 communist leaders.[4] This list would definitely be used to harass political activists and leaders of peoples’ organizations with or without legal charges and would constitute another institutionalized utter disregard of the right to due process.[5]

In an October 2012 interview with Radio New Zealand, President Aquino brushed aside criticism of his human rights records as simply “leftist propaganda”. He issued Administrative Order (AO) 35 in November “creating 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”. He promoted military officers charged with cases of human rights violations.[6] Brig. Gen Eduardo Añowas appointed chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). He was among those charged in the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos. Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and before him Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia who was assigned to head the Eastern Mindanao Command. Baladad and Segovia were among those charged in the illegal arrest and torture of the Morong 43.[7]

2012 also witnessed positive developments in policy reforms. The President signed into lawResponsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which is restrained for implementation by the Supreme Court following petitions of unconstitutionality by the Catholic Church; the Compensation for Martial Law Victims Act, early 2013, providing compensation, recognition and acceptance of the historical facts of grave human rights violation during Martial Law; the Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act 288 or the ARMM Human Rights Commission Charter of 2012, an independent regional national human rights institution vested with the powers and mandate of the national Commission on Human Rights within the autonomous region; Republic Act (RA) 101361 or the Kasambahay Law in January 2013, an act instituting polices for the protection and welfare of domestic helpers; the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, an act defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance;  and the Ratification of the Rome Statute.

A.        A Culture of Impunity Persists: Still No National Human Rights Action Plan

However, until today, President Aquino has never finalized and signed the National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP), highlight during the 1stand 2nd Philippine Universal Periodic Review Process (UPR) in 2008 and 2012; a framework that would guide Government’s compliance with its international human rights obligations. It has failed to ensure greater transparency through a general right of access to official information – a Freedom of Information (FOI) law[8]. The right to information is not only on the accessibility of police blotters and military camp records but also of transparency of business plans and records containing also financial reports affecting people, their sources of subsistence and the environment, particularly in areas of extractive industries. The CHRP has neither called to task the Aquino administration on the NHRAP nor determinedly consolidated its reach on the necessity of the FOI as a right and an indispensable component in the fight against corruption through its regional offices, seminars, trainings, lectures, talks and information dissemination.[9]

Though there is a noted decline in terms of statistics, very few have been made to pay for what they have wrongly done. According to the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), “government and the security sector have miserably failed to diligently investigate and appropriately prosecute the past and present violations. The culture of impunity persists.”[10] This culture of impunity in the realm of civil and political rights is rooted in the impunity of economic, social and cultural rights. Most of the reported cases arise from situations of struggle against mining operations, destruction of environment, demolitions of urban poor communities, land and work, and corruption in the bureaucracy. Lately, violations are directed at human rights defenders.

Government’s denial of human rights as a pillar of development and good governance laid down an environment that perpetuates a culture of impunity, emboldens perpetrators, condones and sets out new targets for violations. This is the general backdrop against which the Commission on Human Rights Philippines (CHRP) reported 2012 as a year of considerable achievements with serious human rights challenges. “Despite wide-ranging positive developments such as the passage of major human rights laws, the CHRP continues to grapple with serious human rights challenges like in the face of unabated human rights violations, particularly summary killings.”[11]

B.        CSO-HRDs’ Reflective Assessment of NHRI: Very Serious Concerns

Two more years are left before the present members of the Commission would have ended their terms. Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in civil society were very concerned as to the perceived divided leadership and lackluster performance of the Commission. After the presidential elections in 2010, expectations of the CHRP were raised when a Human Rights Defender who struggled against repression during the martial law years and had later became a parliamentarian was chosen by the Chief Executive to become Chairperson. As was and is done with various bodies and/or agencies of duty-bearers, HRDs sought a dialog with the CHRP to mutually assess performance, determine accountability and pinpoint areas of possible cooperation.

The requested dialog last November 14, 2012 was regrettably not granted. The CSOs nonetheless pushed through with the assessment of the CHRP without the latter’s presence. Twenty-four (24) national organizations participated in the Reflective Assessment. Much of the results of the said assessment[12] have been incorporated in this report.

II.        Independence of the CHRP

The Philippines is a multi-party democracy with an elected president and legislature, constitutionally mandated democratic institutions, and a vibrant civil society.  It “values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”[13]

Pursuant to Section 17, Article XIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, former President Corazon Aquino on 5 May 1987 issued Executive Order (EO) 163 declaring the creation of the Commission on Human Rights Philippines (CHRP).  It is vested with the powers and functions to investigate complaints of violation against civil and political rights, provide assistance and legal measures to victims, monitor State compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights, establish programs towards the promotion and protection of human rights, and the like.[14]

The 1987 Philippine Constitution minimally defined the composition and qualification of the Commission. It shall be composed of a Chairperson and four members; natural-born citizens; at least thirty-five years old, not have been candidates for any elective position immediately preceding appointment; and the majority shall be members of the Philippine Bar.[15] The Commission is appointed by the President on fulltime basis and shall not engage in any profession or business that may affect its office. It shall have a seven-year term without re-appointment.[16]

Most members of the Commission were appointed in 2008 during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo except for the current Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales, who took office in 2010 due to vacancy. Her predecessor was appointed the Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Rosales’ appointment to the Commission shall be only for the unexpired term of her predecessor.[17]

There is no defined and instituted procedure regarding selection and appointment process of the Commission.  Neither is there legal provisions ensuring human rights background of candidates, gender equality, civil society participation and transparency in the whole process.

Practices have been varied. The experience in 2010 appointment of Rosales spoke of the tension and experience of non-guidelines. This urged international bodies and local organizations to call on the Aquino Government into establishing a transparent and a participatory process that wound ensure the independence of the Commission. In its letter to the President, the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) noted the critical importance of a procedure at par with the minimum international standard as a “firm foundation” of the Commission’s pluralism and independence. The Asia-Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions (APF) through its Chairperson wrote, “the failure to undertake such a process may be seen as breaching the Paris Principles and lead to a review of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines accreditation status. In this regard I note that direct appointment by the executive has in the past led to a review of the accreditation status of other national human rights institutions, and has been the subject of comment in United Nations fora.”[18]

Various recommendations were forwarded in aid of instituting a credible selection and appointment process.  Human rights and civil society organizations (CSOs) recommended a mixed panel or committee of decision-makers, open applications and consultations with stakeholders as required by international standards. This would make the process focused on front-runner candidates’ credentials, stance on issues and human rights advocacies. “In fact, with this process, critics of candidates will have to make their negative statements in public, with some proof, instead of unsubstantiated comments to the press,” according to CHR Commissioner Cecilia R.V. Quisumbing.[19]

Unheeding the call from multi-stakeholders, the appointment boiled down to political connections and compromise with the President. Had the Congress enacted the proposed Charter of the Commission in 2009, independence and pluralism should have been instituted. In Section 12 of the proposal, “the nomination, selection and appointment process shall be transparent and shall ensure broad-based consultation with stakeholders.”[20] CSOs may submit their nominees to the President.[21]

Despite having no Charter in 2012, the Commission “has taken further steps to fine tune its procedures in the investigation and monitoring of human rights violations and abuses. It revised, updated and published the CHR’s Omnibus Rules of Procedures and the Manual on Investigation and Case Management Process; Draft Handbook for CHR Lawyers and Investigators on International Humanitarian Law; and a Protocol on Case Management of Children who are Abused, Exploited and Neglected.”[22] Currently, it has renewed attempt to re-file the Commission’s proposed Charter in Congress. This bill hopes to strengthen the Commission’s independence, elaborate its powers and reinforce a functional and organizational structures.

A.        On Leadership and other Guarantees of Independence and Pluralism

Leadership is crucial in ensuring a unified command in understanding and implementing organizational vision, mission and mandate. CHRP’s leadership is contingent on the dynamics of its Commissioners functioning as a collegial body on matters pertaining to the institution. It has a big role in developing attitudes of the staff and officers.

It is alarming that the Commission’s leadership body is perceived as divided.[23] Policy decisions and actions seem to be devoid of consensus of the Commission en banc (‘in full bench’/as a whole). Although noted that such problem is the cumulative effect of years of institutional weaknesses, it is not a reason for each Commissioner to work and decide alone or in faction. This division among the Commissioners is noticeable today more than before and highlighted by differing loyalties of officers and staff under the Focal-Commissioner System.[24]

The lack of unified leadership of the Commission also reflects in the quality of performance of their regional offices and directors. Because there is no institutionalization of leadership functions, regional offices highly depend on the capacity and character and commitment of its regional heads.[25] There is no clear mechanism to exact accountability of the regional directors and, to some extent, this is also true of Commissioners at the national level.[26] This gap should be addressed in its new Charter.[27]

The division within the Commission poses a hindrance in guaranteeing pluralism vital to the establishment of effective cooperation among other sectors of government and society. Accordingly, “pluralism and diversity are important: they enhance an institution’s independence, credibility and effectiveness; they increase the likelihood of cooperation and collaboration with other stakeholders, and they demonstrate that the institution itself takes equality seriously.”[28] Based on CSOs assessment and result of the Capacity Assessment of the CHRP, the current leadership does not command unity amongst themselves and within the rank and file; fails to unite all in one common direction and action. It is doubtful, for instance whether the Roadmap presented by the Chairperson to the public on 10 December 2010 was a collective effort of the Commission.

Whereas before, CSOs were informed of a unified stance of the Commission regarding issues and concerns, today, they are at a loss as to whether such engagement and collaboration is based on Commission approved policies or guidelines or just on an individual’s (Commissioner/Officer) opinion.

CHRP-CSO relations were made possible through personal contacts. Thus, current engagements and project collaborations are mainly categorized on personal-relational aspects, which are insufficient to evaluate the impact of CHRP’s actions on violations on the ground.

Reports would also point that the President looks at CHR as another government agency serving at the pleasure of the Executive; and assumes that the Commission take the lead in defending the administration’s inaction on human rights. These perceptions endanger the independence of the Commission. The Commission is mandated to monitor government compliance to international human rights obligations and asserts its identity in fulfilling its protection and promotion mandates. It is there to welcome government’s positive actions for human rights, criticize and advise it for its failure to do so. It is not an implementing arm of the government but rather guides it to perform its functions according to international human rights standards. CHRP seems to confuse itself and needs to clarify its mandate and delineate its functions from that of the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC).

The Commission acts more of an alter ego of the government. Its pronouncements and media releases are more in defense of the current administration’s human rights record, rather than setting guidelines on a rights-based approach. Many NGOs tend to think of this condition as patronage which brings back the unresolved issue on appointment, criteria and selection process of commissioners. The non-establishment of a selection process makes the Commission’s independence even more vulnerable and susceptible to control especially with an attached issue of budget appropriation.

“The truest test of independence is found in the actions of the institution: an institution should have the ability to conduct its day-to-day affairs independently from any outside influence. This means that the institution has the authority to draft its own rules of procedure, which cannot be modified, by an external authority. An institution’s recommendations, reports or decisions should not be subject to an external authority’s approval or require their prior review.”[29] Rules of procedures must not remain on paper, it must be observed.

The CHRP has an Omnibus Rule of Procedure. It has a Quick Response Team or program, which attends to emergencies even during holidays, weekends and beyond office hours. However, it falls short by shunning requests falling under these circumstances. It reproaches victims rather than assist them in filing grievances; sometimes lacks propriety in the conduct of its investigation and inquiry by availing assistance from groups or company or security command under question.[30]

III.       Effectiveness of the Commission

A.        On Complaints-Handling

Pursuant to Section 18(2), Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, in relation to Section 3(2) of Executive Order No.163, s. 1987, the Commission on Human Rights is vested with authority “to adopt its operational guidelines and rules of procedure, and cite for contempt for violation thereof in accordance with the Rules of Court.”

In 2012, it updated, revised, approved and published its Omnibus Rules of Procedures.  It “takes cognizance of and investigate, on its own or on complaint by any party, all forms of human rights violations and abuses involving civil and political rights”;[31] “monitors the Philippine Government’s compliance with international human rights treaties and instruments to which the Philippines is a State party…  shall also investigate and monitor all economic, social and cultural rights violations and abuses, as well as threats of violations thereof.”[32]

Investigation of cases whether civil or political or economic, social or cultural in nature maybe takenmotu propio[33] by the Commission or upon validation of complaint by victim/s, his/her relatives/community, non-government organization, or any government or private entity.  It aims to determine whether civil and political, or economic social and cultural rights have been violated by State authorities or their instrumentalities, or by non-state actors including private entities, armed groups or individuals; to assess, monitor and identify gaps in the enjoyment of rights and to map out trends with a view to advise government on necessary reforms, recommend appropriate courses and/or policy measures to improve compliance with State obligations on human rights.[34]

The primary obligation to investigate cases of violation relies on the Commission’s Regional Offices or sub-offices, which has the territorial jurisdiction of the cases. On special circumstances, the Commission en banc may assume jurisdiction of the investigation where the case is “of national, regional or international implication, or extraordinary on account of the complexities of the issues or of the personalities involved, or the unusual or sensational character of the facts, or which seriously affect those who are marginalized, disadvantaged and vulnerable.”[35]

Rule 4, Section 6 of the Omnibus Rules of Procedure of CHR[36] provides for an immediate and appropriate action upon receipt of report or complaint, such as preliminary evaluation of the report or complaint to determine whether the matter falls within the CHR mandate.  It may employ initial field investigation or fact-finding mission for such purpose. Prescribed time periods have been mapped out for the implementation of the Commission’s obligations of conduct and of result.

Rule 4, Section 11 of the Omnibus Rules of Procedure details the processes of CHRP investigation. They are by way of notice, letter-invitation, order, or subpoena. CHRP officials are designated for such a process.[37]

Finally, Rule 4, Section 17 provides that the final investigation report shall be completed within ten (10) days from termination of the investigation proper. The final evaluation of the case and preparation of the resolution shall be made within fifteen (15) days from the submission of the final investigation report, together with all the evidence gathered in the course of the investigation and/or conference or dialogue. These shall be referred to the appropriate legal officer, through the Regional Director. The legal officer shall then evaluate and draft the resolution for the case subject to the review and approval of the Regional Director, who shall release the same within five (5) working days from final evaluation of the case.”

However, there are cases, despite the assistance and persistence of follow-up actions by civil society, where CHR Resolutions or Final Reports are not seen.[38] There is a tendency to focus national resources mainly on and prioritize investigations of sensational national cases and forgetting to give equal due diligence and thoroughness to cases of similar proportions in violations and bring local incidences to national attention.[39]

Sample practices in carrying out its investigation and monitoring functions can be gleaned from the cases resolved by the Commission between 2010-2013 which were forwarded to PAHRA for the purpose of this report:

  1. (Motu propio investigation) Killing of Dr. Leonard Co, Julio Borromeo, and Sofronio Cortez in an alleged encounter between forces under the 19th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army and members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Mahiao, Barangay Lim-ao, Kananga, Province of Leyte   on 15 November 2010. Resolved by the Commission en banc on 22 November 2012.
  2. (Complaint investigation) Alleged extra-legal killing of former Police Inspector Nathaniel Capitanea by Director General Dionisio Santiago and other operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at Joya Towers Condominium, Makati City on 22 August 2009. Resolved by the Commission en banc on 24 November 2011.
  3. (Motu propio investigation) Alleged shoot-out in Paranaque City between Government law enforcement officers and alleged group of armed robbers resulting to the death of sixteen (16) persons including innocent civilians, and the wounding of several others on 5 December 2008.  Resolved by the Commission en banc on 6 December 2010.
  4. (Complaint investigation) Displacement complaints of residents of Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya by the mining operations of Oceana Gold Philippines Incorporated (OGPI), and members of the Philippine National Police-Regional Mobile Group (PNP-RMG) in Kasibuon 2 October 2009. Resolved by the Commission en banc on 10 January 2011.
  5. (Motu propio investigation) Arrest, Detention and Torture of Abdulkhan Ajid by Capt. Sherwin Guidagen, SSgt. Elmer Magdaraog and Sgt. George Awing in Basilan on 23 July 2011. Resolved by CHRP Region IX on 18 April 2012.
  6. (Complaint investigation) Capion massacre 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, et al (elements of 27th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army) on 18 October 2012.  Resolved by CHRP Region XII on 18 June 2013.

The first four cases were directly assumed by the Commission en banc while CHRP Regional Offices handled the last twoThey all bear national, regional or international implications as human rights are national and international issues, the “accused” were duty-bearers and situations happened in the exercise of their functions and responsibilities as State agents. There is therefore a blurred definition on what merits a Commissioner’s investigation.

In all the cases, prompt responses of the Commission are remarkable.  It acts on cases only days after the filing of complaint or after receiving reports. It is however saddening that it takes an average period of two years to finally resolve cases on matters of the Chairperson’s or Commissioner’s investigation. It takes an average of eleven months from the last activity related to the investigation to file resolutions of the cases or write the final report assuming it follows Rule 4, Section 17 of the CHRP Omnibus Rules of Procedures.

Certainly, CHRP investigations are supposed to stick to the human rights questions of the case using available laws of the land, applicable jurisprudence and in accordance with international norms and standards. It does not venture whether the precipitating conditions of violations are legitimate or officially sanctioned. It looks at details of a case from the optic of rights, the arbitrariness of the commission of violation and the omission of responsibilities of State agents based on substantial evidence. Its resolutions are in forms of recommendations for action regarding the case “be it an endorsement for the filing of appropriate criminal, administrative or civil actions before the competent fora; or endorsement for appropriate legislative, judicial, administrative and policy measures; or for the grant of financial assistance, whenever applicable.”[40] It is however, unclear how the Commission monitors the impact of the recommendations as most of accused are still in active service and justice is still elusive for many victims of human rights violation.  With the long period for the Commission’s case resolution to come out, most witnesses become uninterested or afraid to testify.

There are some cases[41], however, wherein CHR’s monitoring warranted a necessary intervention to ensure the State’s compliance of due process to avoid a domino effect of violations, especially those of media low-profile incidences. There is a concomitant danger as well that pronouncement of human rights violations are held back until the whole legal investigation is finished even though some of the violations should be stopped as in the case of Norman Mariano[42] in Dona Remedios Trinidad, in the province of Bulacan.

B.        On Competence and Methods of Operation (efficiency, internal capacity)

The Commission has a total of 539 filled-up positions in 2012. Two hundred forty-seven (247) personnel are assigned in the central office and 292 personnel in regional offices. Of this number, 278 were male while 261 were female. It has 113 lawyers, 158 investigators and 54 trainers/education officers.

Pursuant to the FY2012 General Appropriations Act, the Commission was provided with a budget appropriation of US$8,307,130 for its programs and projects plus an allotment balance carried over from FY2011 in the amount of US$175,355; thus the Commission worked with a total budget of US$8,475,310.[43]

The mandate of CHRP is composed of a range of responsibilities detailed in its operations. It demands competence, responsible and reliable staff or employees, and enough budget. It requires accountability.

The CHRP was tasked to head and convene the Oversight Committee of the Anti-Torture Law 2009 (RA 9745).  Despite repeated request of CSOs to CHRP to convene the body given the numerous problems encountered in cases filed in courts, the Committee has not been convened. Learning from this, the Philippine Congress, did not include similar provision under the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Act (R.A. 10353).

The CHRP is often times the last recourse of victims to exact justice. Thus, incompetence has no place in the institution as inefficiency of personnel backfires primarily on the victims. Such was the case wherein the affidavit prepared by CHR Region was used by the prosecutor against the victim[44]. In the Lenin Salas torture case, the investigation was also flawed which caused the dismissal of the case.

CSOs are tempted to believe that the Commission is disoriented in terms of its functions. They question how the Commission’s Manual of Procedures is being observed and the concept of sensitivity practiced in dealing with the victims and support groups.[45] In the case of three missing Muslims in January, CHR admonished the families of the victims for not approaching the right office.

There is no clear policy on joint investigation with CSOs, as the Commission does not always want to endorse the (joint) final report.

There are existing desks on children and women; CHR is even designated as the Gender and Development Ombudsman but no clear procedures, guidelines, programs and plans on these areas, which cause frustration to advocates of these sectors. It does not lead in educating the public of the impact of lowering the age of criminality of children in conflict with the law.

There is no system of case-feedback within the Commission, from the national office to the region and vice versa. Even if there is, it is not working and burdened by the infighting among the commissioners and loyalties of the directors and staff. The issue of professionalism has affected the efficiency of the Commission and it exacts its toll in the manner of its slow responses to cases and unsatisfactory assistance.

The Commission fails to provide and publish opinions, recommendations, proposals and reports on major human rights issues in the country. It does not comment on the human rights perspective of existing bills and legislations that impact on human rights. If it does they are not published and popularized.

Despite the fact that the CHR acknowledges their lack of personnel and resources to be able to respond quickly to reports of arrests without warrants or abductions or extrajudicial killings, especially in the interior of rural areas, it does not resolve yet the issue of deputation or accreditation of others, as a group of CSOs has recommended to the CHR a long time ago.

Inefficiency within the Commission could have been avoided if human rights education and internal capacity building is built-in the institution for all its employees. It is not incorporated in the plans of the Commission and of its Human Resource Department’s staff development program. No wonder human rights education (HRE) in the country “has been implemented at the appreciation level only [even as] CHRP and its stakeholders have developed useful materials to supplement HRE.”[46]

Human resource is the blood of the Commission and the life of any organization. Investing on it is a lifetime guarantee that CHRP (personnel, staff and even the commissioners) possess needed human rights orientation; skills in promotion and protection are multiplied and continuously enhanced. It is observed that only the top-level management avails of the education and training opportunities.  And, sometimes it is more of a ‘junket’ than need.

C.        On External Impact

The effectiveness of the current Commission can be gleaned from the performance of its mandate. The lack of public information of its annual assessment and reports of its overall functioning makes it more difficult to determine as to what the Commission really achieved. It has no impact as to its role of monitoring the government, as it has no critique on its performance vis-a-vis its obligations as a State Party to many international human rights instruments.

On HRE, CHR performance is disappointing. It gives doubt as to the impact of its education program for the security sector with its continuing dismal records on the promotion and protection of human rights.  It fails to monitor how AFP-Human Rights manual is implemented on the ground given that it endorses it.

CHRP provides spaces for CSO/NGO to participate in its activities when it sees inputs from CSOs are valuable.  Despite the many activities done jointly with the CHR, these were on a per activity and per program basis.  There has been no joint planning on a strategic level even as it was stated in its 2010 Roadmap. The relationship between CSOs and CHR has not yet been institutionalized. What has been set up by the CHRP as an office and with an officer-in-charge was non-functional for two years.

It is observed, however that a practice of putting exorbitant registration fees especially on conferences makes it difficult for the latter to participate. A case in point was the holding of Education Conference in Tagaytay (first scheduled at PICC); fees were first set at US$71 (Php3,000) then later raised to US$118 (Php5,000) even as feedback in this regard was sent earlier to the Commission’s program in-charge. No one from among the 24 organizations who assessed the performance of CHRP in November 2012 attended the conference.

CSOs particularly human rights NGOs work on specific programmed and tight budgets. They are willing to input human resources and contribute ideas, but may never juggle funds for external activities outside of its approved project funding. Sponsors and financiers for activities are a big consideration as to determine participation of NGOs.

NGOs acknowledge the contribution of the Commission in the anti-mining campaigns by coming up with the Didipio Resolution (2011), assistance during the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) Caravan, and designation of focal person for indigenous peoples (IPs). However, CSOs wonder how the Resolution was used, popularized and maximized as the questioned Oceana Gold Philippines (OGPI) company proceeded with its operations. It was a surprise then that, CHR Region 2 commended OGPI for “incorporating and observing a human rights perspective in the conduct of its business affairs and for giving due consideration to cultural rights within its mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino”.[47] The CHR National Office was not aware of this commendation. Related government offices on mining and IPs’ concerns have minimal knowledge, if none at all on the said resolution. CHR regional offices’ response to complaints from Salcedo, Tampakan, and Bayog, Zamboanga was lukewarm. The focal person on IPs has no linkage or coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

There is a wide disparity in documented cases between the CHRP and human rights NGOs. Yet, there is no attempt on the part of the Commission to investigate and validate on its own these cases and reports. It relies more on receiving complaints before acting or investigating. Even with complaints, local offices vacillate on its response. Many cases (particularly EJK) in Mindanao are not included in its data. Particularly, the killings in Compostela valley patterned after the style of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), which the CHR regional office refuses to recognize.[48]

The Commission is full of bureaucratic requirements. It is hard to invite CHRP doctors to visit detention centers, even if cases are already publicized. NGOs still are required to furnish formal request letter to compel CHRP to use its visitation power. CHRP medical teams are usually ill prepared in conducting visits to jails. They lack equipment or intentionally forgetting to bring their kits for handling and assessing patients.  Their services are not satisfactory. Feedbacks on this regard are sent from time to time to the Commission but nothing so far has changed.

IV.       Thematic Focus

This section bears the responses of the CHRP on the questionnaire sent by ANNI on “NHRIs: Role as Defender of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)” and on “Business and Human Rights”.[49]

A.        NHRIs as Human Rights Defenders

NHRIs are also subjected to attacks. This is an accepted fact by the CHRP whose investigators experienced harassments and physical threat in the conduct of their work.[50] While these occurrences have been addressed institutionally through the Commission’s provision of legal services, being equipped and trained to face work related risks remain a challenge for the Commission.  Its capacity building program for investigators excludes threat and risks assessment and planning, and, basic protection and survival skills. As of this writing, CHRP is yet to come up with an official resolution on HRDs to guide its orientation and program development. It even “does not have dedicated personnel, unit nor specific budgetary allocation for the protection of defenders. Budget for HRD protection is incorporated in the regular allocation of the Commission.”[51]

In fairness to the Commission, there are efforts made to include general concerns of HRDs in government engagements and in international fora. For one, it involves HRDs in consultations regarding policy proposals and reporting processes of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and UN Treaty Bodies.[52] In some cases, it has intervened in disputes between HRDs and authorities.[53]Lately, the Commission joined hands with Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas (HRDP) to initiate efforts in enhancing security/protection skills of HRDs (for both external HRDs and CHRP staff). Entitled,  ‘Enhancing Security by Human Rights Defenders’ this maiden joint project aimed to provide introductory training and capacity-building formation for Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) particularly on security and precautionary measures. Then again, the above-mentioned engagements were all on activity-level, there needs to be a programmatic approach within the Commission in handling issues and concerns of HRDs.

B.        The NI and its efforts in Corporate Accountability

Business particularly extractive industry (mining) in the Philippines has taken center-stage in the Philippine development plan.[54] On 6 July 2012, the President released Executive Order No. 79 otherwise known as “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies and Guidelines to Ensure Environmental Protection and Responsible Mining and the Utilization of Mineral Resources”. While it declares “no go zones” (areas closed to mining), requirements of Cost-Benefit Analysis, Preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA), and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), moratorium on applications and permits, review of mining projects and contracts, recognition of local autonomy and the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the like, its catch-all phrase in Sec. 1 “…all existing mining contracts, permits and agreements are valid, binding and enforceable…”[55] gives misleading signals. The commission of mining-related violations in 2011 up to the present provides more justification that the EO fails to ensure compliance of companies to sustainable development, human rights, poverty eradication and full human potential. It does not require industries to include Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) in its regulatory reporting regimes.[56]

Mining related violations do not only affect individuals; they concern the gamut of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR).[57]At present, the Commission reviews its existing mandates to include monitoring and investigation of ESCR cases especially those perpetrated by Non-State Actors (NSA). A provision on this sort is included in its proposed Charter. Although the Commission is mandated to investigate and monitor cases of human rights violations and other similar concerns, it is not legally authorized to adjudicate and issue binding decisions, orders and judgments. Thus it is inevitable for the CHRP to refer cases to the domestic jurisdiction. More so, the CHRP does not have the legal mandate to enforce its decisions. Once endorsed, the CHRP will continuously monitor the concerned government agencies’ compliance with the recommendations of the CHRP.[58]

V.        Conclusion and Recommendations

This report is an effort to initiate dialogue toward institutionalization of CSO-CHRP Relationship. It wishes to reaffirm the crucial importance of productive engagement and cooperation between NGOs and NHRIs in enhancing roles for promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights. We believe that both the CSOs/NGOs and the CHRP look forward in finding ways of ensuring independent, efficient, effective and accountable National Human Rights Institution with the vibrant cooperation of civil societies.

To make this happen, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) is calling on:

The President of the Republic of the Philippines:

  • To come up with concrete pronouncement and finally lay down a human rights agenda that would serve as a pillar of his anti-corruption regime and political slogan: “matuwid na daan” (straight path);
  • To approve the Philippine Human Rights Action Plan (PHRAP) and direct all agencies to fully implement it.
  • To establish criteria for candidates and set up mechanism ensuring transparency in the selection process of the Commission which allows active participation of civil society.

The Congress of the Philippines:

  • To make priority the passage of the CHRP Charter, expanding and strengthen the Commission’s role to promote, protect and fulfill the political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people.
  • To provide needed budget and ensure automatic appropriation for the CHRP to effectively implement its mandates and programs.
  • To establish, among others, mechanisms for accountability of Commissioners and Directors.

The Commission on Human Rights Philippines:

  • To come up with common understanding on the issues of HRDs and their application in all its offices through adoption of resolution, programs and activities specifically geared towards protection of HRDs.
  • Popularize and issue timely public pronouncements, guidelines and positions on issues affecting human rights conditions on the ground.
  • Clarify relationships and establish internal mechanisms to present a clear, unified vision and leadership of the Commission.
  • Strengthen the whole Commission (leadership and ranks and files) with the knowledge on human rights and the capacity to promote and protect these with effectiveness and efficiency in implementing programs and mandates.
  • Institutionalize CHRP–CSOs relationship following recommendations of the Kandy Program of Action.

[1] Dr. Renato G. Mabunga, lead writer and member of PAHRA Council of Leaders

[2] State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2013

[3] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Statement.  12 July 2012.

[4] 2012 KARAPATAN Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

[5] National Union of Progressive Lawyers (NUPL) Press Release. 10 December 2012

[6] A case of torture filed in June 3, 2008 against Col. Domingo Tutaan, Jr. was unattended in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).  In 2013, the National Capitol Region (NCR) of the CHR was reported to have reviewed and confirmed that there was indeed a human rights violation and a case of torture. In the meantime, Col. Tutaan has already been designated as Head of the AFP’s Human Rights Office (AFP HRO). He was also subsequently promoted to a one-star general. The NCR-CHR conclusion was submitted to the Commission and notified Gen. Tutaan, who was then soon to receive his second star promotion, of the finding. The promotion was unimpeded presupposing a clearance from the CHR. Formal requests by PAHRA for information and disclosure to both the NCR-CHR and the Office of the Chairperson remain unanswered till the time of this writing. The need for a policy of vetting designated Human Rights Officers, especially the Heads of the AFP and PNP HR Offices, has also been raised but has gone unnoticed, much less unanswered. (Refer to PAHRA letters both dated 11 April 2013)

[7] 2012 KARAPATAN Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

[8] Frankel, Maurice Freedom of Information and Corruptionhttp://www.cfoi.org.uk/pdf/corruptionmf.pdf

[9] Commission on Human Rights. Status of CHR’s Strategic Plan in Terms of Outputs-Outcomes for the Period 2011-1st Quarter of 2013. Prepared by Planning and Programming Division (PPD) of the Strategic and Development Planning Office (SDPO). P. 19, Table 10 Human Rights Activity [sic], January-December 2012

[10] PAHRA Statement.  A Call to all Human Rights Defenders: Conduct Creative & Courageous Actions on Four (4) Fronts to End Impunity, 22 July 2013

[11] 2012 CHR Report

[12] CSO Reflective Assessment.  “The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines: A Fragmented Commission and Below-Par Performance”. November 14, 2012

[13] 1987 Philippine Constitution. Article II, Sec. 11

[14] Executive Order No. 163, Section 3

[15] Ibid. Section 2

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid. Section 2, para. 3

[19] Ibid

[20] CHRP. (Draft copy) “An act strengthening the Commission on Human Rights and for other purposes”,  12 July 2013

[21] Ibid

[22] 2012 CHR Report

[23] CHRP Capacity Assessment. November 2012

[24] See: 2010 ANNI Report on the Performance and Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions in Asia

[25] Minutes: CSOs/NGOs. Reflective Assessment on the Commission on Human Rights Philippines. UP Diliman, 14 November 2012

[26] Focal Commissioners for the PWDs and the National Monitoring Mechanism (NMM) have not been made accountable for the little or no leadership to the tasks agreed upon within the Commission itself. According to the Coalition for implementing the UN Convention for PWDs in its recent 2013 parallel report: “Despite having a focal person for disability-related concerns, the Commission has demonstrated very limited awareness about rights of persons with disabilities in general as stated in the Convention. It still appears to operate from a medical / charity model of disability. It has not displayed significant efforts or instituted procedures since it was created in 1987 to examine violations of human rights of persons with disabilities.  As an example, at least two recent complaints filed by persons with disabilities in the National Capital Region remain pending for one to two years, with no assurance of timely resolution, despite repeated follow-up.” At the beginning of 2013, PAHRA had written a letter to remind the Focal Commissioner for the NMM to reconvene soonest the NMM, as its last meeting was in August 2011. At that time, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was not yet even finalized and agreed upon, much less endorsed by the President. The Focal Commissioner had not been able to effectively monitor the progress of the seven (7) cases which were the cause of PAHRA’s suspending its attendance in the formation meetings of the NMM as the non-reporting of the concerned security forces officers were seen as a prelude of what could happen in the NMM. (Refer to the letter of PAHRA, January 2013, which remain unanswered at time of writing). An instance of unprofessionalism as expressed in favoritism was pointed out in the case of a person appointed by the Chairperson to the office of the Media-CSO Liaison Office, which did not function for two years. Despite this dismal performance, the person was promoted to the Office of the Chair. (Refer to the letter of PAHRA, March 2013, which is unanswered at time of writing)

[27] There are still  no provisions in the CHRP Charter recently filed in Congress that clearly state to whom the Commissioners are accountable. Many HRDs are appalled at the unchecked incidents of unprofessional actions of some Commissioners and Directors, including even outright human rights violations that erode the integrity and credibility both of the Commissioners and of the CHRP as an institution. It is likewise very disappointing that there seem to be acquiescence on the part of uninvolved Commissioners and Directors.  See also: The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). Position Paper on House Bills on the Commission on Human Rights. February 2009, p.5, as it points out the need for a mechanism for accountability

[28] UNDP-OHCHR Toolkit for collaboration with National Human Rights Institutions (published December 2010 by the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

[29] UNDP-OHCHR Toolkit for collaboration with National Human Rights Institutions (published December 2010 by the United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

[30] Minutes: CSOs/NGOs. Reflective Assessment on the Commission on Human Rights Philippines. UP Diliman. 14 November 2012: In the case of 3 missing Muslims in January, investigators from the Legal and InvestigationOffice (LIO) admonished the family of the victims because they did not approach the right office. The CHR concerned offices’ response to complaints from Salcedo, Tampakan, and Bayog, Zamboanga was lukewarm

[31] CHRP. Guidelines and Procedures in the Investigation and Monitoring of Human Rights Violations and Abuses, and the Provision of CHR Assistance. Rule 2, Section 1. 2012

[32] Ibid

[33] On its own initiative based on reports gathered from any source

[34] CHRP. Guidelines and Procedures in the Investigation and Monitoring of Human Rights Violations and Abuses, and the Provision of CHR Assistance. Rule 3, Section 2-3. 2012

[35] Ibid. Rule 4, Section 8. 2012

[36] Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP). Omnibus Rules of Procedures. Rule 4, Section 6. 2012: “The recommendation as to the proper course of action to be taken by the CHR shall be submitted to the Office of the Regional Director concerned or to the Commission within two (2) days from the conclusion of the preliminary evaluation or initial investigation; and in urgent cases, not later than twenty-four (24) hours.” Furthermore, “the investigation proper shall commence immediately after the preliminary evaluation of the report or complaint, which in no case shall be later than fifteen (15) days from receipt of the complaint or report”

[37] CHRP. Omnibus Rules of Procedures. Ibid

a)     The Chairperson or any Commissioner in cases of national, regional or international concern or importance, regardless of the situs of the violation or threats thereof; or

b)     The Regional Director, or in his/her absence, Chief Investigator of the CHR Regional Office or Sub-Office concerned, for cases taken cognizance of or filed with the CHR Regional Office or Sub-Office concerned.

The processes shall:

a)     Inform the respondent/s, and other parties concerned of the date, time and place of the scheduled conference or dialogue;

b)     Require the respondent/s to respond to the complaint by way of an answer, counter-affidavit or comment within the period prescribed in this Rule;

c)      Inform the respondent/s that in case of failure to attend or respond to the complaint, the Commission or any of its Regional Offices or investigation committee concerned shall proceed with the investigation and decide on the case on the basis of the evidence and documents on record;

d)     Inform the invited resource persons, if any, of the time, date and place of the conference or dialogue; and for said resource persons to submit their comment, opinion or position on the issue on or before the scheduled date of the preliminary conference or dialogue or inquiry within ten (10) days from receipt of such invitation or within such period as the CHR investigating authorities may deem reasonable.

[38] Refer among others, to cases of the enforced disappearances of the PICOP 6 in Agusan del Sur (Mindanao) (CHR Case No:  CRG-Y2K-42-AS).

[39] A case in point would be the massacre of the Miraflores brothers in Zambales. (CHR Case No:  CRG-Y2K-42-AS).

According to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), one or the other brother bore broken lower leg bones and had marks of possible torture.  The CHR did not follow these through, either on the regional or national level.  Fear, poverty and low-profile were factors that marginalized the incident, and eventually reduced to the status of being mere statistics in the data bases of human rights violations.

[40] Ibid. Rule 4, Section 17, para. 3. 2012

[41] Refer to the PICOP 6 and the Dona Remedios Trinidad (DRT) cases

[42] Norman Mariano was subjected to interrogation without counsel and was coerced to sign blank papers as a conditionality to be treated of his gunshot wound while being detained in a military hospital in July 2011.

[43] 2012 CHR Report

[44] Torture Case managed by Balay Rehabilitation Center (PAHRA member), name of victim withheld

[45]On a Saturday of November 2012, Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRDC) requested assistance from the Commission to at least facilitate or order a Quick Response Team (QRT) for children who were victims of abuse but were informed as it was a Saturday, there was no one at the CHRP office to take action. Similar experiences of PAHRA member, MAG when requesting QRT from a Regional Director of CHR for an arrest and torture case in Zamboanga on a Saturday. The Director said he would attend to it first thing on Monday.

[46] Maricel T. Fernandez and Alex B. Brillantes, Jr, PhD. The State of Human Rights Education in the Philippines: Issues, Concerns and Directions. December 2012. HRE is implemented for compliance purposes only: generally, human rights concerns are incorporated in various subjects taught in schools. At the elementary and high-school levels, human rights values are integrated superficially in Social Studies (Araling Panlipunan). At the college level, it is incorporated in the National Service Training Program (NSTP), Social Sciences Courses, Constitution, Bill of Rights, among others. Where appropriate and when the opportunity arises, the teachers incorporate HR in the Gender and Development (GAD) and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC).

[48]Minutes: CSOs/NGOs. Reflective Assessment on the Commission on Human Rights Philippines. UP Diliman. 14 November 2012

[49] Full texts of the CHRP responses to the two questionnaires are uploaded atwww.philippinehumanrights.org website

[50] The Commission’s investigators from the regional office (CHR Region IX) were fired upon during the conduct of investigation and Lawyers from the Legal and Investigation were stalked and harassed on the road by military body guards of a government official.  They also have been confronted with harassments and threats in the form of administrative and/or criminal charges which have been addressed through the provision of the Commission’s legal services

[51] CHRP response to the “Questionnaire for NHRIs: Role as Defender of Human Rights Defenders”

[52] Partnership with Civil Society Coalitions and Networks during the UPR process; engagement in the Treaty Reporting Mechanisms:  CESCR, Committee against Torture, Migrant Workers, CERD, CRC and in the recent ICCPR reporting.

[53] Commission in partnership with the AFP, the PNP, Alternative Law Groups (LLG), PAHRA and the Hans Seidel Foundation launched the project “Community-Based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection Between the AFP and the PNP, and CSOs and Local Communities”. The project involves the conduct of a series of dialogue sessions in different areas nationwide. These dialogue sessions provide a venue for civilians and officers of the AFP and the PNP to discuss together and share information the human rights situations on the ground, identify issues and gaps as well as mechanisms for cooperative efforts. On a case level, one recent example is on the detention of Cocoy Tulawie, a human rights defender from Sulu.

[54] 27 October 2011: Memo instructing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Climate Change Commission (CCC), Presidential Assistants on Climate Change and Environmental Protection as Mining Study/Policy Group. Mining is included in the industrial priority list (Arangkada   2011), and the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP).

[55] Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM). Philippine Mining Situationer. 2013.

[56] CHRP has advocated for the inclusion of the requirement of human rights impact assessment (HRIA) reports in the guidelines for the national observance of human rights in the mining industry during the consultations with government agencies involved in the regulation and monitoring of mining activities. CHRP seeks to operationalize the “Respect” Pillar of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through the institutionalization of the HRIA. CHRP coordinated with international NGOs that conducted a HRIA of the activities of a mining firm in Mindanao, and convened stakeholders for validation at the community level and at the level of concerned national government agencies.

[57] CHR (IV) Resolution No. A2011-004 (January 2011): “Among the violations allegedly committed by Oceana Gold against the indigenous community, which the Commission has cited in its report, are: the right to adequate housing and property rights’; right to freedom of movement, the ‘right not to be subjected to arbitrary interference; ‘the right to security of persons’; and ‘the right of the indigenous community to manifest their culture and identity.’”

[58] CHRP response to Survey on Business and Human Rights. 2013

STATEMENT FROM A NETWORK OF VIETNAMESE BLOGGERS

24 Jul

VIETNAM SHOULD AMEND LAW TO DEMONSTRATE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CANDIDACY COMMITMENT

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

As a candidate for the HRC for the 2014-2016 tenure, Vietnam must demonstrate its commitment to cooperating with the HRC and upholding “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

These obligations and responsibilities do not only apply on the international arena, but also inside Vietnam. The Vietnamese government also needs to review the human rights situation in their own country and the Vietnamese people also have a right to freedom of opinion and expression, including on these matters.

In order to improve the protection of human rights in Vietnam, we will take HRC’s principles as guidelines for our actions, which also comply with Vietnam’s obligations under international human rights law.

We will:

– Continue to promote and inform the Vietnamese people about their rights by publicly distributing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), organizing public forums to discuss human rights in Vietnam and advocating for necessary improvements of the respect and protection of human rights.

– Continue to monitor, publicly report and comment on improvement, setbacks, or violations of human rights in Vietnam, with a focus on policy and practice by the Vietnamese authorities that affect human rights.

In order to fulfill these responsible actions, we call upon the Vietnamese government and the HRC to review Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code of Vietnam, amended in 2009 -“crime of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and citizens.”

In May 2013, two bloggers were detained right after they distributed the UDHR and police accused them of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State. Only weeks later,

two other bloggers were detained after participating an outdoor picnic to discuss the content of the UDHR.

Most recently, in May and June 2013, Article 258 was used to arrest blogger Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao, and Dinh Nhat Uy forexercising their rights of freedom of expression by peacefully publishing texts on their blogs.

This article is in breach of the Article 19 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It would be a great responsibility to serve as a member state of the Human Rights Council, and an opportunity to promote human rights domestically and abroad. For a successful candidacy, we believe Vietnam must repeal or make amendments to Article 258 to ensure that Vietnamese people are free to educate themselves about and promote human rights.

We hope that Vietnam will consider the abrogation of Article 258 to demonstrate its commitment and contribution to promoting and protecting human rights, and we hope that the General Assembly members will push Vietnam to do so during the campaigning period.
We request Vietnam to present its human rights pledges as a candidate well before the election, to enable members of the General Assembly to assess its human rights commitment. The abrogation of Article 258 should be among the pledges.

As said by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General – “All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action.” As advocates for freedom of expression in Vietnam and victims of human rights violations because of our activism, we view Vietnam’s candidacy for the HRC as a platform for constructive human rights discussions in our country.

List of the first 69 Vietnamese bloggers signing the Statement

1. Võ Quốc Anh – Nha Trang
2. Phạm Lê Vương Các – Sài Gòn
3. Huỳnh Ngọc Chênh – Sài Gòn
4. Nguyễn Thảo Chi – Sài Gòn
5. Nguyễn Đắc Hải Di – Oslo, Na-uy
6. Lê Dũng – Hà Nội
7. Hoàng Văn Dũng – Sài Gòn
8. Nguyễn Văn Dũng – Hà Nội
9. Mai Xuân Dũng – Hà Nội
10. Trương Văn Dũng – Hà Nội
11. Ngô Nhật Đăng – Hà Nội
12. Nguyễn Chí Đức – Hà Nội
13. Phạm Văn Hải – Nha Trang
14. Hoàng Thu Hà – Hà Nội
15. Bùi Thị Minh Hằng – Vũng Tàu
16. Nguyễn Vũ Hiệp – Hà Nội
17. Vũ Sỹ Hoàng – Sài Gòn
18. Nguyễn Thị Hợi – Nam Định
19. Lê Anh Hùng – Quảng Trị
20. Trần Văn Huỳnh – Sài Gòn
21. Nguyễn Việt Hưng – Hà Nội
22. Đặng Thị Hường – Hà Nội
23. Nguyễn Xuân Kim – Nghệ An
24. Đặng Ngọc Lan – Hà Nội
25. Bùi Tuấn Lâm – Đà Nẵng
26. Nguyễn Thùy Linh – Hà Nội
27. Vũ Thị Thùy Linh – Hà Nội
28. Đào Trang Loan – Hà Nội
29. Lê Thăng Long – Sài Gòn
30. Nguyễn Tiến Nam – Yên Bái
31. Phạm Thanh Nghiên – Hải Phòng
32. Vũ Quốc Ngữ – Hà Nội
33. Đào Hữu Nghĩa Nhân – Sài Gòn
34. Bùi Thị Nhung – Ninh Bình
35. Lê Hồng Phong – Hà Nội
36. Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh – Nha Trang
37. Trương Minh Tam – Hà Nội
38. Hồ Đức Thành – Hà Nội
39. Nguyễn Hồ Nhật Thành – Sài Gòn
40. Phạm Văn Thành – Pháp
41. Nguyễn Lân Thắng – Hà Nội
42. Châu Văn Thi – Sài Gòn
43. Khổng Hy Thiêm – Nha Trang
44. Võ Trường Thiện – Nha Trang
45. Linh mục Giuse Đinh Hữu Thoại – Sài Gòn
46. Nguyễn Tường Thụy – Hà Nội
47. Trịnh Kim Tiến – Sài Gòn
48. Nguyễn Thành Tiến
49. Phạm Toàn – Hà Nội
50. Trịnh Văn Toàn – Hà Nội
51. Lê Thu Trà – Hà Nội
52. Nghiêm Ngọc Trai – Hà Nội
53. Phạm Đoan Trang – Hà Nội
54. Nguyễn Thu Trang – Hà Nội
55. Hoàng Đức Trọng – Sài Gòn
56. Phạm Văn Trội – Hà Nội
57. Hoàng Anh Trung – Hà Nội
58. Nguyễn Anh Tuấn – Đà Nẵng
59. Trịnh Anh Tuấn – Buôn Ma Thuột
60. Vũ Quốc Tú – Sài Gòn
61. Đặng Vũ Tùng – Zurich, Thụy Sĩ
62. Nguyễn Chí Tuyến – Hà Nội
63. Nguyễn Hoàng Vi – Sài Gòn
64. Nguyễn Văn Viên – Hà Nội
65. Bùi Quang Viễn – Sài Gòn
66. Lê Công Vinh – Vũng Tàu
67. J.B Nguyễn Hữu Vinh – Hà Nội
68. Đặng Tuấn Vũ – Hà Nội
69. Huỳnh Thục Vy – Quảng Nam

Politicians and their Conscience

13 Feb

In times like these consult your politicians. Surprisingly, they would present the best solutions to our societal snags and suggests in a simplest way how to carry out these proposals once they are elected. How clever it is. But really in the contrary they will do the opposite. More often than not, they will make an excuse eventually and convince us that their decisions and actions are guided purely by their conscience. But who knows what their conscience says?

Did they ponder on their conscience when thousands of families forcibly evicted from their homes in exchange of their so-called urban development? This is usually done without exhausting the Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development Housing Act (UDHA). Because of this, thousands of families left homeless.

Did they consult their conscience not to approve the increase in salary/wages of our workers? Not only that. They have done nothing with regard to the security of tenure, the banning of labor unions in most factories and establishments and other labor related violations.

Did they consider their conscience in apparently delaying intentionally the distribution of land to our poor farmers? With reference to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), the government is now racing time since it will end until July 2014. Maybe because most politicians are landlords/owners. And probably because they will do anything to reinstate their idle possessions.

Did they consult their conscience not allowing the Freedom of information (FOI) bill pass into law? Congress killed the FOI bill apparently due to lack of quorum. But really, politicians are afraid they would be subjected to legitimate public scrutiny. It would guarantee the right of people to know the pleasant or distasteful, and appalling about them.

Did they refer to their conscience in arresting a human rights defender named Timogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, and the unceasing impunity in the country? Cocoy is falsely accused by his detractors of a crime he did not commit. Before he was charged and arrested, Cocoy experienced harassments and received countless threats while actively involved in promoting, protecting and defending the rights of the Moro people.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a bigot”, Most of us should anticipate that all through the election campaign they will promise abundance and prosperity. But mind you, they will work only for their own interest, and provide nothing but impairment and despair.

What matters most really is the people’s prospect and judgment of what is rightful and just. We must unite as one against these phony saviors and pretenders, and reclaim our inherent rights and freedoms.

Contact Person:

Rommel Yamzon

#45 St. Mary Street, Cubao, Quezon City

Tel (632) 4378054 / Fax (632) 9113643

Email: hrd.pilipinas@gmail.com

Urgently Adopt all Necessary Measures to Guarantee Life, Integrity, and Safety of HRDs

10 Dec

On the occasion of the International Human Rights day on December 10, 2012, the Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP) salutes all working women and men in reclaiming the dignity of persons and those who continuously strive towards the achievement of all human rights for all.

Sadly, sixty-four years after the states adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), cases of human rights violations especially against human rights defenders are of an alarming number and must be urgently addressed.

Reports of extra-judicial killings of political activists, predominately those associated with grass-root organizations fighting for land distribution and against mining, have now caused increasing concern. Most of the killings are carried out by unidentified men believed to be hired goons, or associated with private armies and paramilitary groups. But most appallingly gross violations perpetrated by soldiers acting on behalf of private corporations and/or mere suspicions.

Take the case of a family who were killed in Sitio Fayahlob, Barangay Datal Aliong, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, Mindanao. Juvy Capion and her two sons Jordan and John died due to fatal gunshot wounds found on various parts of their bodies. According to witnesses, members of the Philippine Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, trooped towards the scene and strafed the house of the victims using their automatic rifles. Victims were killed instantly. Juvy Capion is from the B’laan tribe who strongly opposes mining operations conducted by SMI/Xtrata within their ancestral land.

Another human rights defender Venecia “Inday” Natingga, 49, was murdered along the highway of Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte around five (5) in the afternoon on June 19, 2012. She was going home riding a motorcycle from the town center when she was killed. She sustained seven (7) gunshot wounds. The most fatal hit her head causing her sudden death. Her family and colleagues believed the killing had something to do with Natingga’s active involvement in helping farmers acquire a small portion of land through agrarian reform. They claimed that previous owners of the Segovia Estate dreadfully contested the Natingga’s efforts.

The same fate befell Datu Jimmy Liguyon, an indigenous chieftain and Dao village captain who was shot dead allegedly by Aldy Salusad, a member of the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army (NIPAR). Liguyon was killed on March 5, 2012 inside his own house in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Before the killing, Jimmy led his community to protest against ongoing militarization of their community. He was also a staunch critic of mining activities in the area.

Repeatedly, HRDP calls on the Aquino government to proactively investigate these cases and punish those responsible. We urge the Philippine government to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country and those who work for the welfare of the marginalized.

The acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being, but undermine the fundamental role human rights defenders play in society.  Violations against HRDs leave all those whom they fight for defenseless.

Our leaders should keep in mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential to the formation of a solid and lasting free society. They must realize that human rights defenders play an important role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

International Human Rights Organizations Conducted Fact-finding Mission in Mindanao

25 Nov

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International federation for Human Rights (Fidh) recently concluded the fact-finding mission for cases involving human rights defenders in Mindanao, particularly those in Lanao del Norte and South Cotabato. From November 14 to 16, the fact-finding team was able to interview and meet with victims, activists, and local personalities that would help in providing vital information to complete its report. The said report will be published and eventually submitted to concerned agencies of Philippine government to address protection of human rights defenders. The fact-finding mission was assisted and in coordination with the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRDP).

Briefing on Mindanao issues especially on human rights defenders. With Ms. Claudina Samayoa and Lawyer Vrinda Grover both from OMCT/Fidh; Ms Rose Trajano and Mr. Max de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

Interview with defenders and human rights victims held at the Demokratikong Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (DKMP) office in Lanao del Norte.

Courtesy call and meeting with Diocese of Marbel Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez, who is a staunch critique of mining in the province.

Defenders of South Cotabato met with the fact-finding team and shared their stories. The activity was conducted at the Social Action Center in Koronadal.

Getting the other side of the story. Interview with Mayor Leonardo Escobillo of Tampakan, South Cotabato, regarding the massacre of the Capion family on October 18, 2012. The Capions of the B’laan tribe are known for their stance against mining in their ancestral land. The Mayor admitted he endorses mining operations in his area, and that his family owned company is the contractor and supplier of construction materials for SMI/Xtrata.

The witness. Rosita Lasib Capion, sister-in-law of Juvy Capion, and aunt of jordan and john,who were killed by troops under the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine army.