Government must end delay and act to protect citizens' rights
(Hong Kong, December 7, 2005) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday criticised the lack of anti-torture legislation, weak witness protection, extra-judicial killings, and poor complaint mechanism in the Philippines in a report on the country marking Human Rights Day.
"The [Philippine government's] response to these and other grave issues concerning human rights in the country has so far been characterised by inaction and a lack of proper direction," the Hong Kong-based rights group said in a letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.
"The government must take genuine and effective measures to implement laws that will help prevent the blatant violations of human rights that are currently sweeping the country."
The AHRC has issued a report on human rights in the Philippines as part of a series on 10 Asian countries, released on the occasion of Human Rights Day.
Although the Philippines has ratified the Convention against Torture, torture is not a crime according to the country's present laws. The AHRC has called on the Philippine President and lawmakers to accelerate legislation against torture.
"It is becoming increasingly obvious that getting away with murder in the Philippines is made easy by the absence of any functioning witness protection scheme," the AHRC also noted.
According to the AHRC's report on the Philippines, existing provisions for witness protection in the country cannot stop state agents from intimidating and even killing witnesses before they testify, and the authorities have made no serious effort to address this issue.
The AHRC also highlighted 20 separate extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders and political activists in 2005.
"The combined effect of [the current administration's] inaction and unhelpful public statements is to suggest that the killing of political opponents and human rights activists is of no concern, and may even be beneficial to the country's internal security and social order," the AHRC warned.
To aggravate these problems, the state human rights commission set up to redress them does not have a performance pledge to efficiently and effectively resolve complaints of violations.
The AHRC reported this September that village officials and officials of the Municipal Department of Social Welfare and Development reprimanded families of farmers in Alabel, Sarangani suffering from hunger and starvation after the families voiced their desperation.
The AHRC has called on the UN High Commissioner to pressure the Philippine government for change in these and other human rights issues.
Referring to its calls for sweeping administrative, police and judicial reforms, the AHRC said that, "Only when the government of the Philippines takes these recommendations seriously will human rights begin to receive the respect that they so urgently require."
Link to AHRC's 2005 International Human Rights Day page: http://www.ahrchk.net/hrday2005/
Link to AHRC's Human Rights Day Message: http://www.ahrchk.net/hrday2005/05message.htm
Link to the Philippines report: http://www.ahrchk.net/hrday2005/pdf/HRDay-Philippines.pdf
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About the AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-government organisation monitoring and lobbying for human rights in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
Posted on 2005-12-07