Quezon City – 10 December 2012 On Human Rights Day four years ago, 10 December 2008, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). On September 24, 2009, the OP was opened for signing by the Member States – among them the Philippines.
Since 2009, the Philippine NGO-PO Network for ESC Rights of which FIAN Philippines is a member, has been urging the government to ratify the OP. The ratification of the OP was also among the recommendations to the Philippine government during the past Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. The Philippines, however, has merely “noted” the recommendation. Thus, it failed to show serious commitment to respect, protect and fulfil the economic, social and cultural right of all Filipinos.
The Optional Protocol comes into force after ratification by ten (10) State Parties. By date, eight (8) State Parties have ratified the OP. The ratification is crucial as the OP gives full recognition to the indivisibility, interdependence and equal importance of all human rights. It is crucial in providing recognition and relief to victims of violations of human rights such as the right to health, education, food, housing, work and/or social security. Victims, who are unable to seek relief for their claims within their own country, may bring their complaints before the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. International redress will be possible on the prerequisite that the victims have already gone through all domestic redress mechanisms, but without receiving adequate relief.
The OP should not be considered as a means to discredit other countries, but as an instrument that assists countries to enhance their compliance with their obligations under the ICESCR. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) pointed out that a ratification of the OP could lead to enactment of relevant legislation or amendment of existing laws to address hunger and poverty in the Philippines more effectively. Especially rural and urban poor experience violations against their ESC rights such as the right to adequate food through forcible evictions, lack of access to land, violent land lord resistance, and lack of employment and tenure security.
If it ratifies the OP, the Aquino government will demonstrate its willingness to comply with international human rights standards and recognize that the human dignity of all Filipinos must be protected through clear policies and programs on the ground.
In celebration of the 64th Human Rights Day, FIAN Philippines urges the Aquino government to make ratification of the OP a core priority and to implement policies that ensure access to justice for victims of human rights violations. We also call upon the government to provide the greatest protection possible for victims of rights violations by accepting the inquiry and inter-state procedures under the Optional Protocol and rejecting impunity. By ratifying the OP, the Philippine government will send a signal to other countries that we can no longer be indifferent to the marginalization and neglect of those living in poverty and hunger.
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