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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Marie Yvette Banzon
Agenda item 70
62 nd Session of the General Assembly
In her address before the General Assembly on 28 September 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, unequivocally expressed the Philippines’ full commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms when she stated that “the Philippines has no tolerance for violation of human rights at home and abroad”.
Human-rights based governance
Our experience in the Philippines clearly shows the nexus of human rights, development and peace and security. We realize that our work of attaining peace and unity within the country, as well as our efforts to achieve development for Filipinos, including those who are from the vulnerable groups in society, can only be effective if these are underpinned by a strong human-rights based approach. As the Philippines begins consultations to formulate its second National Human Rights Action Plan, one of its goals is to plant the seeds for human-rights based governance.
Peace processes between the Government and other non-state political groups, such as the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, include mechanisms for the joint monitoring of human rights violations on both sides. This exemplifies the conviction that the protection of human rights is a collective responsibility that transcends political and ideological differences. In addition, the Government’s efforts on anti-terrorism contained in the Human Security Act of 2007, underlines that the powers of the government “shall not prejudice respect for human rights which shall be absolute and protected at all times”.
The Philippines’ commitment to economic, social and cultural rights remains strong. Human rights is a cornerstone of the Arroyo Administration's development programs.
In fact, recently, President Macapagal-Arroyo has highlighted the close linkage between poverty and human rights and has directed the mobilization of more than 10 billion pesos or more than 200 million dollars to eradicate extreme poverty and ‘keep the cause of human rights alive’. At this current stage where countries are racing to achieve their MDG targets, it is even more urgent that the international community pays particular attention to addressing the economic rights of people, including their right to development. Halfway through the 2015 MDG target year, the Philippines has already made significant progress, including a decrease in the proportion of people living in extreme poverty from 24.3% to 13.5%; a decline in infant mortality from 57 to 24 deaths per 1,000 live births; HIV prevalence below 1%; and an increase in the enrolment for girls in primary education to 85.4%.
Adherence to international human rights law
In terms of adherence to international human rights law, the Philippines has taken two significant steps in reaffirming its commitment to human rights. In September of this year, the Philippines signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will strengthen the legal policy framework for the sector, complementing our National Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities. Earlier in the year, in June, the Philippines signed the Second Optional Protocol to the Convention on Civil and Political Rights. This is a clear manifestation of our belief in the sanctity of human life. President Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9346 which effectively removed the death penalty from our statute books. Such is the value that we give to life that also in the Philippine Constitution, we remain bound to protect the life of the unborn child.
Also, in the region, the Philippines is actively working with other ASEAN-member countries to realize a human-rights mechanism in the Southeast Asian region, which we expect to be highlighted in the ASEAN Charter.
Cooperation with human rights mechanisms and strengthened responses
The Philippines is one of the few countries that had invited Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings for a visit. His visit in February of this year indeed paved the way for enhanced national discussions on the protection of human rights, both in policy and in practice. As outlined by my delegation last Friday during the dialogue between this Committee and Mr. Alston, the Philippine government has enhanced its strategy—covering the executive, legislative and judicial branches—to ensure a comprehensive and collective approach to addressing human rights issues. This strategy is based on the five directives issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the 30 th of January 2007, specifically:
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has also established a human rights office in February 2007, whose mandate is to investigate cases that may involve military men and officers and to prosecute those found liable under the law. The Presidential Human Rights Committee, which is tasked to advise on policies and programs on human rights and coordinate the government’s activities on compliance with human rights obligations, has also been re-invigorated.
Highlighting migrants’ human rights
The Philippine government recognizes the important contributions of migrant workers and has always championed their cause in the national, regional and international arenas. It has adopted an active policy of positive and pro-active engagement of both receiving and sending states in order to address the situation of migrant workers and their families. As the Philippine foreign policy identifies the protection of the rights of migrant workers as an essential pillar, the Philippine government has been adopting a comprehensive approach to ensure the protection of their rights and the promotion of their development. We continue to express our grave concern over the fact migrants’ human rights are randomly violated around the world. In this regard, we reiterate the call to States and all stakeholders to ensure that a human-rights based approach is undertaken in all areas of governance and work that involve migrants, particularly in labor and employment, immigration and sustainable development.
Supporting institution-building at the Human Rights Council
The Philippines attaches great importance to the work of the Human Rights Council and is glad that the Council has achieved significant progress in its substantive and institution-building work. We remain hopeful that our collective vision for the Human Rights Council – to be a body that will maximize cooperative mechanisms to promote and protect human rights- will be achieved. As a founding member of the Human Rights Council, the Philippines will be one of the first to undergo the universal periodic review. We welcome this and hope to see a balanced, constructive and cooperative UPR that will contribute much to building the needed capacities and the exchange of best practices. Finally, on the special procedures of the Council, the Philippines attaches particular importance to the work of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, two mandates that are directed to monitor issues that are related to our growing experience of globalization. We therefore wish to see these mandates strengthened.
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