Philippine Working Group held
forum on human rights
Participants pointed to gaps in promotion
Human rights education, bills in congress, abolition
of death penalty, union rights, right to peaceful assembly,
killings and disappearances, and a clearly laid out Arroyo
agenda for protection of human rights were issues highlighted
in the "Kapihan on the Human Rights Situation
Today" held on December 12.
The non-government coalition, Working Group for an ASEAN
Human Rights Mechanism organized the Kapihan, which gathered
together around 150 participants. Panel speakers included
Working Group Secretary General Carlos P. Medina, Jr.,
Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights Purificacion
V. Quisumbing, Max de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance
of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Byron Bocar of the
AKBAYAN Party List, ESCR-Asia Executive Director Resurrecion
Lao, Jess Panis of Partido ng Manggagawa (Workers' Party)
and Friedrich Naumann Stiftung resident representative
de Mesa presented PAHRA's findings on the Philippine human
rights situation. The report indicated two hundred and
seventy one (271) political detainees and one thousand
one hundred and eighty one (1,181) persons in the death
row as of June 2005. He lamented the government's lack
of a clear set human rights agenda. He also stressed the
government's failing grade in job creation, food security,
land rights, housing, and basic education.
|PAHRA's Max De Mesa presented a comprehensive human
rights 'situationer,' backed up with statistics.
Resurrecion Lao cited government violation of oppositionists'
rights and military violations in rural areas. She stressed
the need to protect property rights for everyone, and
mentioned updates on the efforts to install an optional
protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights.
Byron Bocar cited a number of human rights bills pending
in congress. These include bills on the abolition of death
penalty, right to peaceful assembly, compensation to victims
of martial law, and against violence against women.
Jess Panis emphasized union rights that are continuously
suppressed by corporations and left unprotected by government.
Chair Quisimbing called on civil society organizations
to dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights and come
up with an active network of government and civil society
groups that will monitor and help in the effective implementation
of human rights treaties the Philippines has ratified.
Discussions also pointed to the need for a comprehensive
human rights education program to instill greater awareness
among government officials and workers, civil society
organizations, academe and the public in general.
|ESCR's Resurrecion Lao and Commission on Human Rights
Purificacion Quisumbing posed challenges to human
rights advocacy work.
Carlos P. Medina, Jr. brought the discussion to a regional
level and referred to need to establish an ASEAN Human
Rights Mechanism. The mechanism, he said, is timely more
than ever, especially that a stronger ASEAN community
requires governments to collectively stand up to their
commitments to human rights. Medina also said that a regional
cooperation on human rights makes more effective implementation
of human rights treaties within ASEAN countries. Medina
stated that the Kapihan is one way of facilitating dialogue
among human rights advocates and an important bottom-up
approach to get the 'feel' of the human rights situation
in the Philippines.
Governments met for the 11th ASEAN Summit from 12 to
14 December in Malaysia, where civil society organizations,
including the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights
Mechanism, presented recommendations to ASEAN leaders.
One of the main recommendations from civil society organizations
was the creation of an ASEAN Human Rights Commission.