Posted by: nupl | April 24, 2008


April 15, 2008

Press Release

The Philippine National Report to the UPR contains barefaced lies and half truths about the human rights situation in the country, claiming credit for the decrease in the number of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances through supposed “measures” undertaken by the Philippine government. The strange decrease in the killings despite failure of government to arrest or prosecute the perpetrators is in fact proof of government involvement in the killings. Without the elimination of impunity and according justice to the victims of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances, the decrease does not ensure that the phenomena will not escalate again. Even the government claim of unanimous “applause” during the review is a half truth since many countries did put it to task for its human rights record. We urge the Human Rights Council to be actively critical of the Philippines in its UPR report until it has fully implemented the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston and curb impunity by making the perpetrators accountable for the killings and disappearances.

Government Measures have no relation to decrease in killings

The Philippine National Report presented a glowing picture of the country’s human rights situation including its effective promotion of the peoples’ economic, social and cultural rights. The supposed alleviation of poverty in the country has no basis in fact and the government assertion of respect for political and civil rights is an outright falsehood. The supposed steps undertaken by the Arroyo government to stem the tide of extra judicial killings and disappearances, such as those listed below, are also lies and half truths intended to mislead the HRC and the international community:

(a) Paragraph 99 of the Report declares that “effective remedies are available through judicial, administrative and legislative processes, including inquiries in aid of legislation, internal administrative disciplinary procedures in executive agencies, the police, and armed forces x x x”

(b) Paragraph 100 declares that “The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent and fiscally-autonomous body created by the Constitution as the “people’s champion” responsible for the investigation and prosecution of graft and corruption cases against those holding public office.”

(c) Paragraph 105 declares that “The Philippine government has taken firm measures to address the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.”

(d) Paragraph 106 declares that “The recommendations of the Melo Commission and other measures, were adopted and operationalized by the Executive Branch.”

(e) Paragraph 52 declares that “Firm legal, regulatory, and punitive counter-corruption measures are being implemented.”

Paragraph 99 is not only misleading because there exists no serious and effective effort to implement ‘disciplinary procedures” against human rights violators in the police and the armed forces, but also because the Arroyo government has practically crippled serious legislative inquiries with its abuse of the claim to executive privilege. With President Arroyo controlling Congress to defeat any impeachment complaint, and her claim to absolute immunity in any court, there are no “effective remedies” for the people to seek justice for the crimes committed by the President. Freedom of expression and assembly are not only discouraged through threats, but are directly repressed by the police.

The Philippine Report failed to mention in Paragraph 105 what exactly were the measures it undertook that strangely led to the decrease in extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances. The phenomenon of impunity is normally curbed by the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators of human rights violations. The government has not identified the real perpetrators of the killings as it has always maintained that they were committed by the New People’s Army. The government has not dismantled a single assassination squad or seriously prosecuted or arrested any of the perpetrators. The decrease, therefore, cannot be attributed to the supposed government measures but is a result in fact of the escalating pressure both in the Philippines and abroad for a stop to the atrocities. The “strange” decrease in the killings despite government failure to arrest the perpetrators, as if a ‘desist order’ was given to the death squads from above, only strengthens the charges that the Arroyo government is behind these killings. If the killings were done by non-government personnel, no amount of international pressure could have resulted in the decrease of the killings. For the international community to credit the decrease to government “measures” is to encourage impunity because it simply means that the perpetrators can resort to killings and disappearances once again and get international accolade if it stops the killings at an opportune moment.

As to Paragraph 106, even if the Melo Commission declared Gen. Jovito Palparan culpable of the killings merely for “command responsibility”, the Arroyo government did not even lift a finger to prosecute Gen. Palparan. This failure to extract accountability from Gen. Palparan immediately belies any serious attempt by the government to ‘operationalize’ or adopt the Melo Commission’s “Terminal” report. In fact, the Melo Commission has not even officially ‘submitted’ its final report since Pres. Arroyo has ordered it to “continue” its investigation. Since Justice Jose Melo has been appointed by Pres. Arroyo to head the COMELEC, it is now uncertain if the “Melo” Commission can still submit a Final Report. This development only shows that the Commission has no importance at all to the Arroyo government except as a tool to delude the international community into thinking that measures against the killings are indeed being undertaken by the Philippine government. The government’s assertion that it has “adopted and operationalized” the Melo recommendations is a lie especially since there is no official “Melo Report” to adopt.

Paragraph 52 is also misleading because the Arroyo government has firmly thwarted all efforts to investigate accountability of public officials in ALL allegations of crimes committed by Pres. Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo such as the Hello Garci tapes, the fertilizer scam, Venable contract or the NBN-ZTE deal.

The trick of the Report is to flood it with details of supposed plans without explaining the results in order to show its ‘comprehensiveness’ such as creating task forces, issuing admin orders or taking ‘measures’. The HRC must incisively inquire on the specifics of the Report in order not to get misled by its verbose elaboration of ‘image enhancing’ but ineffective projects.

Roadmap to nowhere

Part IV paragraph 148 to paragraph 174 of the National Report entitled “Roadmap and Expectations” contain the commitments of the Arroyo government to human rights protection. It is telling that the Report devoted 26 paragraphs on issues such as poverty, gender equality, health, and other supposed commitment to respect human rights, but did not contain a single reference to extra judicial killings or enforced disappearance in its ‘roadmap’ a foreboding omen of things to come. Like the body of the report, the ‘commitments’ in Part IV are nothing more than generalized statements to appease the international concern over human rights violations, and will not lead to the systemic elimination of human rights violations in the country.

The HRC Review: Unanswered Questions

Even the report of Sec. Eduardo Ermita that the Philippine Report has been ‘applauded’ is not completely true. The Philippine delegation could not have gained unanimous “applause” if it failed to answer an important question—which of the supposed measures undertaken by government exactly contributed to the decrease in the killings considering that no serious and genuine investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators have taken place. According to NUPL Deputy Secretary General Edre Olalia who is in Geneva for the UPR, “Despite courtesy questions from allied countries, the stage-managed road show of lies, hypocrisy and fantasy did not prevent at least a sizable number of countries such as France, Norway, Slovenia, Japan, New Zealand, UK, Canada, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Algeria, Korea, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Mexico, and even the US to incessantly question or comment -though diplomatically but some very firmly- on the issues of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, women and children’s rights, migrant rights, corruption and non-signing or ratification to instruments against torture and disappearances.”

The applause of Romanian Ambassador who temporarily heads the HRC cannot carry more importance than the pointed questions of some countries namely :

(i) Norway asked what government measures were exactly undertaken by the Philippine government and how it related to extra-judicial killings and disappearances. This is the question that cannot be answered by the Philippine government, ever, because the token measures such as Task Force Usig, the Melo commission or the human rights training for the military did not have any serious impact at all on the killings.

(ii) Canada expressed concern over the state of impunity prevailing in the Philippines, including the impact of Pres. Arroyo’s Administrative Order 197 on the Writ of Amparo. AO 197 declared that operations and any information related to extra judicial killings and enforced disappearance are confidential in nature, thereby, preempting the submission of evidence in an amparo petition.

(iii) Australia questioned the lack of information on the exact position of the Philippine government on the Alston Recommendations. Sec. Ermita could not have answered this since the government refuses to recognize the Alston report and disagrees with its finding such as its recommendation for the government to take out extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances in its counter insurgency operations under OPLAN Bantay Laya.

(iv) France and Switzerland not only reiterated its concern over the killings but commented over the ineffective prosecution of perpetrators. Japan and Brazil also raise issues on a similar vein. Since the killings and disappearances escalated in January 2001, the government has not reported the names of those convicted for these crimes mainly because none of the perpetrators were convicted so far.

(v) The United Kingdom asked about corruption and the delayed reporting of the Philippines to treaty monitoring bodies. This question is important in the light of the Philippine government refusal to submit its report on human rights conditions in the country or genuinely engage the complaints filed against it in various international mechanisms. In fact, Mexico even suggested that the Philippine National Plan should take into consideration the existing UN mechanisms and procedures, country visits and thematic reports of special rapporteurs. Sri Lanka was more direct as it asked for Philippine compliance with UN mechanisms.

(vi) Brazil recommended that the Philippines invite special rapporteurs while the U.S. asked about measures against torture committed by the police.

The Philippines did not sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and promises to do so during the review does not address charges of massive torture in military camps and police jails. Pres. Arroyo, afraid that she and many public officials will be haled to the International Criminal Court [ICC] for crimes against humanity or war crimes, refuses to submit the Rome treaty on the ICC to the Senate for concurrence even if the same was already signed by Pres. Joseph Estrada on December 28, 2000. Pres. Arroyo does not have immunity under the Rome Statute.

Failing Grade

The Philippine human rights situation is not rosy at all but is dripped in the blood of victims whose cries for justice have not been answered. The NUPL understands that the UPR is far from perfect as a mechanism to check human rights abuses and expects some members of the HRC, particularly from countries with similar dismal human rights records, to ‘applaud’ the Philippine report. The NUPL, however, urges members of the HRC and the United Nations in general to veer away from the usual ‘diplomatese’ when it drafts its final report on the Philippines in June this year and critically put to task the Philippines for its responsibility in the extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances. The expression of international concern, together with an active human rights movement in the Philippines, on the issue of human rights are the major factors that led to the decrease in the killings and disappearances, and not some government “measure”. A critical response from the HRC will contribute in saving lives in the Philippines more than any technical assistance to government investigation or prosecution. We ask the U.N. to give the Philippines a failing grade in its review, not only to force the Philippine government to seriously prosecute human rights violators but also to deter any renewed escalation of the killings and disappearances.

Human rights lawyers ask the HRC to, among others, reject the Philippine government’s claim to credit for the decrease in the killings and press the demand for the serious investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances; the immediate ratification of the Torture Convention Optional Protocol and the submission of the Rome treaty on the ICC to the Senate for concurrence, urge Pres. Arroyo not to undermine the Writ of Amparo rule issued by the Supreme Court, and urge other steps towards accountability and against impunity including the implementation of the Alston Report recommendations.

The NUPL will continue to actively monitor the review process of the Philippine Government with the HRC and will persist in its call to suspend Philippine membership with the Human Rights Council until it has implemented the Alston Report recommendations and curb impunity by holding the perpetrators of human rights violations to account for their crimes.

References : Atty. Neri Colmenares—Secretary General

Atty. Edre Olalia—Deputy Secretary General


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: