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19 MARCH 2009
PRESS STATEMENT OF EXECUTIVE SECRETARY EDUARDO R. ERMITA ON
In my capacity as Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), I am pleased to share the European Commission’s (EC) balanced and encouraging ssessment of the current human rights situation in the Philippines, as well as on the issue of internally displaced persons (IDP) in Mindanao.
Based on reports from the Philippine Mission in Brussels, no less than the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, speaking on behalf of the EC, acknowledged the Philippines’ record decrease in the number of unexplained killings in the last two years.
“These assassinations of journalists, of human rights and land rights activists have certainly decreased significantly in number in the past two years,” the Austrian commission-member said during the plenary debate of the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, France, on March 12, 2009. The Philippines recorded a huge annual drop in the number of cases of killings of political activists and media personalities, from 41 cases in 2006 to 6 and 5 cases in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Ferrero-Waldner also mentioned the Philippines’ “considerable progress in its international obligations to ensure and protect human rights, ratifying 12 international human rights treaties and abolishing the death penalty.”
The commissioner’s observation reflects the country’s religious periodic reporting of its compliance to its obligations under the core international treaties and covenants. This year alone, the Philippines will be reporting on four of these covenants – the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families, Convention Against Torture, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These periodic reports come on the heels of the country’s reporting of our compliance to economic, cultural, and social rights held in Geneva, Switzerland, in November last year.
While Ferrero-Waldner noted that there are still “long-standing” concerns on unexplained killings in light of the status of the perpetrators, she affirmed the EC’s support of the European Union Justice Assistance Mission (EU-JAM) which aims to enhance the Philippine government’s capability in the areas of investigation and prosecution. The proposals under the EU-JAM are currently being reviewed by the Department of Foreign Affairs in consultation with concerned member-agencies of the PHRC, such as the Department of Justice, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of National Defense.
On the other hand, according to Ferrero-Walder, assistance to civil society organizations in the country though the Instrument of Democracy and Human Rights will also be extended. We welcome this new development as the PHRC, in line with its mandate, deeply engages civil society and non-government organizations in activities that will further advance human rights promotion and protection in general in the country, such as the on-going formulation of the country’s second National Human Rights Action Plan, and the conduct of regular forums on human rights.
We recall that the European Union, through the Delegation of the European
Commission in the Philippines headed by his Excellency Alistair MacDonald,
was buoyed by the positive assessment given by its ambassadors in December
2008 on the conditions at the evacuation centers that it is currently
providing some P399 million pesos, or 6.5 million euros, in humanitarian
assistance for IDPs in Mindanao. Another 2.5 million euros, or roughly
P154 million pesos, have also been earmarked by the EU for long-term
The assessment of the EC, as articulated by Ferrero-Waldner, was made in response to comments made by parliamentarians in relation to a critical EP resolution issued on March 12, 2009, which called on the Philippine government to act on the “hundred of cases of unexplained killings of political activists and journalists,” the “hundreds of thousands” of IDPs in Mindanao,” and on the stalled peace processes with the local Communist insurgents and the MILF.
We note that the said parliament resolution issued this year contains issues and concerns no different from those in a resolution issued by the same group in 2007. Thus, we can safely conclude that the perceptions reflected in the resolution were the result of outdated and biased data that were relayed to the proponents of the resolution by interest groups.
Nonetheless, the Philippine Mission in Brussels will be inviting the
principals of the EP resolution to clarify and provide updates or the
issues contained in the said resolution, and to further explain the
Philippine government’s position on human rights, IPDs, and the peace
process. It will be recalled that on January 26, 2006, the PHRC conducted
In the meantime, European Commission Ambassador to the Philippines MacDonald will be invited by the Department of Foreign Affairs to further expound on the European Union’s and the EC’s position raised in the EP resolution, taking into account the constructive and heartening pronouncements made by Ferrero-Waldner.
ELMER G. CATO Second Secretary & Press Officer Philippine Mission to the United Nations 556 Fifth Avenue, Fifth Floor New York, New York 10036 Tel. No. 212.764.1300 Extension 38
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