[Statement] Statement of the Philippine Civil Society Organizations on the UPR

Statement of the Philippine Civil Society Organizations on the UPR* (Late posting)

29 May, GENEVA – As the Senate sitting as impeachment court have declared Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty, the Philippine government is currently reporting to the Thirteenth Session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review from 9AM – 12:30 PM Geneva time (3-6:30PM Manila time).

A total of 65 countries are asking questions or comments to the Philippine report. The Philippine delegation is headed by Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Meanwhile, the NGO’s which have lobbied countries to ask questions and forward recommendations to the Philippine official delegation, in order to surface the human rights issues from the perspective of the claimholders, are also present. These NGOs monitoring the report in Geneva include the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), Coalition against Trafficking in Women– Asia Pacific (CATWAP), Children Legal Rights and Development Center (CLRD) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).

Most interventions were in the area of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, as well as of gender equality and trafficking.

However, NGO leaders present were unhappy with the silence of the official Philippine delegation on critical issues raised within each theme. “We strongly support Uruguay’s recommendation for bilateral agreements with source, transit and destination countries of trafficking, as well as on
protecting women in prostitution,” according to Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of CATW-AP. “The Philippine government is silent about transparency in its use of the anti-trafficking budget, and on why the government passed a law decriminalizing vagrancy on April 5, 2012, which
however, discriminated against women in prostitution by keeping them criminalized.”

Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) commented on the issue of women’s access to justice in the Philippines. “The Philippine government is still failing to provide protection and build a supportive environment for women and children within
the judicial system, and in so doing, contributes to the persistence of a culture of systemic impunity embedded in the criminal justice system. The time to move beyond de jure equality to de facto equality is very much long past due. We call on the Philippine government to act with due diligence and uphold its obligation to respect and implement all human rights and freedoms, specifically women’s human rights. We call on the government to address the rising cases of violence against women by holding perpetrators accountable and dispensing justice without delay to ensure women are able to access justice and enjoy their rights”.

On the overwhelming question on extra-judicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances, PAHRA Chairperson, Max de Mesa said: “Government with its security forces must determinedly address the continuing impunity of these human rights violations which are mostly perpetrated and
perpetuated by disregarding the exercise of its obligation of command responsibility. It must also be noted that many of the victims are human rights defenders who earlier were vilified and/or criminalized.” De Mesa added: “Human rights education conducted among the security forces in all their institutions, if not internalized, will not assist a paradigm shift towards a human rights culture but may only serve as a veneer to impunity.”

On the claims of human rights work among security personnel, APL Secretary-General Josua Mata commented that “The Armed Forces and Police Savings & Loan Association, Inc (*AFPSLAI*) labour case puts into question the AFP leadership’s sincerity in upholding human rights, specifically that of the workers.” The chief of staff and other top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who comprise the majority of the board of AFPSLAI. It continues to ignore the wanton violation of the rights of AFPSLAI union leaders, whose only ‘fault’ was to expose the anomalous practices in the bank.

Both Enriquez of CATW-AP and Paclarin of WLB, however, lauded recommendations by Sweden and Switzerland among others to pass the Reproductive Health Bill, and that of Argentina to address the discrimination against the LGBT.

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