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17 MARCH 2009
EUROPEAN COMMISSION LAUDS ACTIVE ROLE OF RP ON ASEAN MECHANISM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS BODY
MANILA—The European Commission (EC) has lauded the "particularly active role" of the Philippines in the mechanism for a human rights body (HRB) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forthwith announced a grant of P57 million for a human rights website launched here on March 16.
At the same time, Chairperson Lilia De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "to wield her influence and certify the urgent passage of these important legislative measures on human rights, saying that by so doing, the Philippines demonstrates its sincerity and seriousness in responding to the issues of impunity and human rights violations haunting the country today."
Of the 10-member ASEAN, only the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have so far established their respective human rights institutions (HRI), with Cambodia expected to become the fifth country joining the regional effort.
The ASEAN has been working on the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB), a commitment specified in the recently-enforced ASEAN Charter, whose Terms of Reference (TOR) is being readied for possible adaption by Foreign Ministers in July and for launching at the ASEAN Summit in October.
"The Philippines has played a particularly active role in the fruition of the AHRB and I would like to express my appreciation for that," Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, head of the European Commission Delegation in the Philippines, said.
The launching of the website came just days after the passage of "Anti-Torture, Anti-Enforced Disappearance and Internal Displacement of Persons" measures by the House of Representatives of the Philippines. De Lima said her commission is "euphoric" over the passage, which, she said, "marks a milestone in Philippine legislative history." The Senate version is being awaited.
Expressing elation over Cambodia's anticipated joining, MacDonald said, "Welcome to the club," referring to how Europe's own human rights evolved through the decades.
He promised support to the improvement of human rights standards in the four participating countries and their role at raising awareness among ASEAN governments and civil society of the importance of establishing a specific AHRB.
Furthermore, MacDonald encouraged the four to "share best practices among existing national human rights institutions.
The three-year project is implemented by the four ASEAN national HRIs under the chairmanship of the CHR.
Diplomats and civil society groups on human rights were among those attending the launching on Monday and listened to MacDonald heap praises on the leadership of the Philippines.
MacDonald also expressed understanding of the regional and individual-country trait of consensus and expressed hope that cross-ASEAN promotion and protection of human rights would soon come to be.
"Of course there have been difficulties along the way, and it is clear that not all ASEAN countries are quite as committed to this idea as are the four pace-makers present here today. But even allowing for the traditional ASEAN spirit of consensus, I understand that significant progress is being made, and that the AHRB is likely to be given a mandate which will address protection as well as promotion, and which will underline the universality of human rights."
In a statement, de Lima said "these (recently-passed House) human rights measures have languished in the halls of the Legislature for the longest time with the Anti-Torture Bill staying the longest having been filed since the Eighth Congress (1987-1992)."
She called on the Senate "to demonstrate the same level of commitment as their counterparts in the House of Representatives for the immediate passage of these landmark measures and compel the Executive branch to perform its mandate by signing these measures into law.
"It bears to stress that the Philippines, whenever it ratifies or accedes to international human rights treaties, obligates itself to translate the same into national legislation," she said, thanking the Lower House legislators who pushed the bill to passage.
"The Commission on Human Rights has called on Congress to enact measures as prescribed in its Human Rights Legislative Agenda to ensure the respect, protection and fulfillment of human rights in the Philippines.
"The failure to legislate these landmark measures will be taken as a sign that pressing human rights issues, such as the prevalence of torture, extra judicial killings and the negative impact of internal displacement, are not being fully addressed," she further said.
De Lima recalled that "The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), in particular, entered into force for the Philippines on June 1987."
She scored the State for "continuously failing" to implement its obligation to enact a law criminalizing torture in accordance with the standards and principles set forth in the human rights instrument, 22 year since it was passed.
In April, the Philippine Government’s report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be considered by the Committee Against Torture.
The CHR will be present in the UN deliberations to continue its call to government to make good its commitment as a State Party to the Convention, De Lima said.(IMO-PNA)
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