To the President’s slogan “Towards a ​S​traight ​P​at​h”​ How can we expect Human Rights to be guaranteed if even the CHRP can not be relied upon?


    After four years as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), President Benigno S. Aquino III has no National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP). And it has been said that he sees no need for one.

    After four years as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), President Benigno S. Aquino III has no National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP). And it has been said that he sees no need for one. He has justified such a stance that each department and agency under the Executive would make its own Human Rights Plan.

    As part of the Office of the President (OP), the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) predictably echoed this sentiments and position

    The Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP), when pressed by civil society during a public forum, to remind the President of the State Obligation to put together a NHRAP, she firmly said, “I will not pursue it. You do it yourself, if you like.” Risking its independence, the CHRP too has been made to take the stance and attitude of the President.

    If the CHRP is becoming politicalized, what can the people expect from CHRP, the main human rights institution tasked to monitor State compliance of its obligations, when, among others,:

    • The President had the supposedly rights-based Philippine Development Plan (PDP) implemented, but practically condones development aggression being wrought by extractive industries, like big-scale mining, and dam-building impacting adversely against the economic, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples;
    • The President had not exercise its full political will on Congress to extend deadline for land coverage and land distribution despite the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)’s own estimates that about 500,000 hectares still, as of June 2009, have to be distributed along with 1.2 M to 2.7 M hectares of lands claimed as distributed under leaseback agreement, Stock Distribution Option (SDO), Voluntary Offer to Sell, Voluntary Land Transfers by the DAR but have to be verified if finally redistributed and not circumvented;
    • The President is more concerned with just getting more taxes from mining companies rather than resolving and halting corporate abuses and violations of human rights as well as destruction of the environment and the people’s sources of subsistence;
    • The President pursues a development paradigm based on an economic framework that abets corporate greed for profits and natural resources to the detriment of workers and people’s right to development and to a life with dignity;
    • The President, as Commander in Chief of the AFP, in approving the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or “Bayanihan Program” , has exerted no extraordinary due diligence to resolve and halt the abuses and violations of human rights attributed to members of the AFP, particularly extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance and torture done in the name of peace and bayanihan;
    • The President is disproportionately more concerned about the traffic congestion in EDSA than the expose of the Wheel of Torture in a PNP secret facility despite the designation of human rights officers up to station level and after a series of human rights education to police officers and personnel;
    • The President, as Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, does not strongly enforce and demand thorough accountability of command responsibility in the security forces which oftentimes deteriorate into “command conspiracy”;
    • The President is internationally known as a leading proponent of transparency in governance but allows continuing impunity by the delayed urgent passage of the Freedom of Information Bill;
    • The Chairperson of the CHRP heads the body concerned with Business and Human Rights within the international group of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) but still has to take to task with consistency the mining company in Tampacan and has yet to ensure that justice be given to the massacre of the pregnant Juvy Capion and her two other children;
    • Despite the passage of the anti-torture and anti-enforced disappearance laws, no one has been convicted and impunity against these rights persist;
    • Despite the implementation of the Law on Compensation for the Martial Law Victims of Human Rights Violations, the CHRP has not acted with due diligence in active search for thousands of undocumented victims of human rights violations so that initial justice could be given them;
    • The Commissioners themselves, with all the investigative resources at their disposal, could not objectively and speedily exact accountability for abuses of authority, corruptive practices, like favoritism, and human rights violations perpetrated by their peers against their own personnel?

    Then, it is time to also exact accountability of the Commissioners as we demand transparency and accountability from other State actors because the Commissioners are duty-bearers. The collective leadership of the Commissioners is fragmented. Their performance is below par. And yet, taxpayers will later have to pay more than a hundred thousand pesos monthly in pension for each Commissioner. Hence, the call to sanction accordingly those guilty of abuses of authority, corruptive practices and human rights violations in the CHRP.

    The CHRP was a fruit of people’s struggles against dictatorship and massive violations of human rights. In no way or at any time, should the CHRP be a buffer and apologist for the impunity perpetrated by State actors. The country needs committed human rights defenders as Commissioners and a strong, united Commission on Human Rights based on a new Charter for CHRP.

    We call on the people, all human rights defenders:

    Rely primarily and mainly on the strength and capabilities of the people.
    Let all human rights defenders empower themselves and each other to defend dignity and human rights.

    Image Source: hronlineph