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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
by


Hon. Eduardo R. Ermita
Executive Secretary and Chair of the Presidential Human Rights Committe

On the oral presentation of Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

26 October 2007

Agenda item 70 - Human Rights

Hon. Eduardo R. Ermita is the Executive Secretary of the Philippines, Cabinet Minister, the chief Administration Official in the Office of the President and also Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.

 

 

 


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has sent me, her Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, to address this august body on one of her Administration's top priority areas: the promotion and protection of human rights.

I take this opportunity to briefly address some of the important elements in the report of Mr. Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

First, the Philippine Government is grateful for the acknowledgment of the full cooperation we extended to the Special Rapporteur during his visit to the Philippines in February this year.

My Government also recognizes that many of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations were made constructively - consistent with the ideal of constructive interaction set out for the Human Rights Council. It is in this spirit that the Philippines invited the Special Rapporteur.

As a member of the Human Rights Council, we encourage other countries to engage as much as possible with the Council's special procedures, for the sake of our shared interest in human rights.

The visit of the Special Rapporteur has sparked enhanced national discussions on human rights protection.

The Special Rapporteur, the independent Philippine Human Rights Commission and the Melo Commission created to investigate activist and media killings, have all concluded that there is no State Policy condoning or instructing such killings. They have laid the blame at the door of rogue elements in uniform and members of insurgency groups.

Still, the Government does not shirk from our responsibility to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to prevent further such killings.

Just two days ago, marking the anniversary of the United Nations, President Arroyo, reiterated instructions for security forces to actively prevent human rights violations by rogue men in uniform. This includes ensuring that members of the military and police understand that such killings are specifically prohibited by law and policy.

In his draft Final Report - but unfortunately not in his oral statement today - the Special Rapporteur mentioned that he is encouraged by the Philippine government's measures taken to address the issue.

We share the Special Rapporteur's desire to see results soon, particularly in the form of convictions. Six persons have already been convicted. More convictions, in significant numbers would send a strong signal that these killings are not tolerated.

In our limited time, my delegation would like to share with you some of the measures we have taken. More details are in the extended statement being circulated.

The Government’s main institutional responses include the creation of a dedicated police task force to investigate political and media killings, the strengthening of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, and improvements to the witness protection program.

Recognizing the vital role played by the Commission on Human Rights, the President ordered the equivalent of half a million dollars in additional funds released to the body.

Towards more effective prosecutions, prosecutors and investigators are instructed to work more closely together. Expedited processes for prosecutions and trials are in place.

Specifically to address accusations of a culture of impuniity, the President has ordered security forces to investigate cases where men in uniform are accused. Currently, five soldiers and officers are under investigation and face the possibility of courts martial. The Armed Forces of the Philippines have instituted programs towards clearer comprehension of the “command responsibility” concept within its ranks. Human Rights Offices have been created in the AFP and the Philippine National Police.

The Judiciary has just established the Writ of Amparo - allowing victims to petition for protective measures.

More than seventy cases have been filed in court against suspected perpetrators of these killings. The Department of Justice has intensified its efforts to prosecute these cases.

On 10 October 2007, the Acting Secretary of Justice directed all prosecutors to give utmost priority to said cases by conducting marathon preliminary investigation that all cases must be resolved within the prescribed period of sixty days from date of filing with a prosecutor's office.

Since 2006 the President has given directives to address the issue of political violence and killings. Some of these actions taken are the following:; Increased cooperation of government agencies with the CHR; and Encouraging multi-sectoral dialogue on the political killings issue.

The Presidential Human Rights Committee plays an important role in resolving alleged/suspected extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The PHRC created and maintains a consolidated database of cases, with information from the PNP, DOJ, and Judiciary. This is a tool for the Administration to monitor the progress of individual cases as well as systemic functions.

The President has instructed the creation of a special working group, under the PHRC, to coordinate policies and actions towards the resolution of cases of Alleged/Suspected Extrajudicial Killings, Enforced Disappearances and Torture. This working group continues the work on the strategic work plan that moves the President's directives forward and focuses on inter-agency cooperation and coordination. The work plan is organized according to 6 thematic areas: investigation, witness protection, prosecution, judicial process, capacity-building, and monitoring.

To improve the Witness Protection Program, which was created under Republic Act No. 6981, Regional State Prosecutor’s who are the Program’s implementers in the regions have been directed to to liberalize admission requirements, particularly when threat level on bona fide witnesses in media and political killings is high.

A multi-agency task force on humanitarian assistance to victim's families has been created, led by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Immediate assistance such as medical and funeral costs are extended, as well as longer-term assistance such as scholarships for children.

The Government looks forward to increased momentum on its efforts soon, thanks generous offers of foreign assistance to reinforce national capabilities to investigate these crimes, strengthen our capacity to protect human rights, and promote human rights education, particularly from Australia, Japan, the US, and the European Union.

Mr. Chairman,

As a signatory to eleven Human Rights instruments, and a member of the Human Rights Council, the Philippines reiterates its deep commitment in protecting and promoting human rights.

My delegation reserves its right to address the Special Rapporteur 's report more thoroughly when he presents it formally before the Human Rights Council.

Thank you.



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