By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
A discussion among our media group zeroed in on the issue whether or not the Philippine government has the moral ascendancy to sit as member of the United Nations Human Rights Council with its present human rights record, regarded by international watchdogs as among the world’s worst.
The discussion arose when in the 2nd UNHRC Session, the representative of the Philippine government issued a statement that can be interpreted as an attempt to cover up the political killings and human rights violations in the country. The records show that since 2001 the killings continue: there are 755 unarmed civilians and non-combatants summarily executed while there are 184 cases of forcible abductions and disappearances. Of the total number, some 96 victims were indigenous leaders while more than 40 were journalists.
Our discussion pointed out that with a government that cannot stop and solve these killings, is it proper for it to participate in such an international body mandated and expected to respect and protect human rights to the fullest? The consensus: the government has no moral ascendancy to sit in that body.
It seems that the inclusion of the Philippines in the UNHRC is being used to deodorize the human rights records of the present administration.
In the 2nd UNHRC Session, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) called on the Council to evaluate how the Philippine government has obliged with human rights laws and international humanitarian laws. According to Filipino NGO delegates who attended, the Philippine representative dismissed the call and insisted that human rights violations by the government should be determined only after proper court processes.
I am one with the Filipino NGO delegation in reacting to the government pronouncement. It is tantamount to denial of justice to the victims of human rights violations, particularly political killings. With the Philippine justice system grinding very slowly and with a Department of Justice that perpetuates injustice, these HRV’s can gather dust or be decided against the victims. Our justice system is not only very rigid. It is very expensive. We cannot expect the poor families of the victims to win in such kind of a situation. That is why the survivors and victims’ families saw the UNHRC as an alternative venue to ventilate redress and eventually seek justice.
The Philippine representative conveniently forgot that the state’s primary task is to protect and respect human rights of its citizens as provided for in the constitution. When government cannot protect and instead violates these rights – it commits human rights violations. The same constitution provides generally accepted principles of international law that form part of the law of the land. Hence, the Philippine government must strictly observe international human rights standards and humanitarian laws. In fact, as the Philippine government is a signatory to these international instruments, it binds itself to strictly observe the spirit of these laws.
The GMA administration denies these violations in its attempt to repair its international image. Particularly, she was scolded in Europe for these violations. She is in a “must do all” situation. But like the process of exposing Marcos’ human rights records, international lobby and protest campaigns have so exposed these atrocities to the world that no amount of shielding can save Gloria’s face.
I salute these human rights groups and advocates who took the cudgel to expose political killings by the GMA administration at the international level. It is worth supporting. Let us join hands in calling for the removal of the government from its undeserved seat in the UNHRC. #