ASEAN Human Rights Body in Mindanao
Taking time off from their peace and relief work in the
field, civil society organizations (CSOs) from the Southern
Philippines gathered for a one-day consultation on the
ASEAN human rights body (AHRB) on August 31, 2008 in Cagayan
de Oro City. The activity was organized by the Philippine
Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (PWG),
the Commission on Human
Rights of the Philippines (CHR), the Task
Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), and the
Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).
Ms. Pinky Aladjian gives suggestions for the ASEAN
human rights body.
In his welcome remarks, PWG Secretary-General Carlos
Medina Jr. reflected on the backdrop of the Mindanao consultation,
which includes the growing number of casualties and refugees
resulting from armed conflict in the Southern Philippines.
Medina highlighted that a regional human rights mechanism-
such as the AHRB promised by the ASEAN
Charter - has the potential to address human rights
violations occurring in such situations when all national
remedies have been explored and have been unsuccessful.
“As human rights and peace advocates, we should
support the creation of the AHRB,” said Medina.
PWG Program Manager Ray Paolo Santiago then gave an overview
of ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter, and the AHRB drafting process.
As the creation of the AHRB is provided for by the Charter,
Santiago thought it of interest to share that the Foreign
Relations Committee of the Philippine Senate had recently
endorsed the Charter for ratification. In ASEAN, all but
Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand have ratified
At the consultation, Director Nerissa Navarro-Piamonte
also affirmed that the CHR is fully supporting the ratification
of the Charter. She said that the the CHR, along with
the Indonesian National
Commission on Human Rights (KOMNAS HAM), the Human
Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), and the National
Human Rights Commission of Thailand (collectively
known as the ASEAN NHRI Forum), have submitted a paper
on the possible Terms
of Reference (ToR) for the AHRB which the High-Level
Panel (HLP) which is drafting the mandate and powers
of the AHRB can draw ideas from. Participants of the Mindanao
consultation then requested for a copy of this submission
for guidance as they come up with their own inputs.
Participants then presented their inputs on the AHRB,
its ideal relationship with stakeholders including CSOs,
and possible structures and functions. They proposed that
the AHRB be given the power, in case of widespread and
systematic human rights violations, to refer the matter
to the ASEAN Summit as a breach of the Charter. There
was also a suggestion that the AHRB should be able to
recommend measures and procedures for addressing human
rights violations in each member country. Finally, with
regards to the nomination and selection process, it was
proposed that the nomination adheres to the principle
of transparency and participation from stakeholders including
In closing, PAHRA Secretary-General Renato Mabunga said
that CSOs will continue providing input for the AHRB despite
this being intergovernmental by nature. “Our work
does not end when the AHRB is established. In the future,
I foresee a shadow committee comprised of CSOs which will
vigilantly monitor the AHRB.”
The PWG consultation with CSOs in Cagayan de Oro City
is part of a series of national consultations in the Philippines.
The PWG will compile the results of all its consultations
and will officially present this to Ambassador Rosario
Manalo, the Philippine representative to the HLP.