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

Philippine Statement

Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations

on Agenda item 64 b
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
63rd session of the General Assembly
29 October 2008, New York


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

While it is true that, every year, the General Assembly comes together to devote special attention to human rights, this year, which marks the 60 th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, behooves us to reflect on both the persistent and emerging issues relating to the protection and promotion of human rights in this new millennium.

There has been much progress on the development of the normative framework on human rights, with the adoption and entry into force of several important human rights conventions and instruments. However, the paramount challenges lie in addressing the gap between human rights standards and implementation, and in genuinely mainstreaming a culture of human rights protection and promotion, not only in laws and policies, but in everyday life.

Mr. Chairman,

First of all, we need-- not just to see-- but also to feel a strong political commitment from all stakeholders, especially from States, to safeguard and guarantee fundamental human rights for everyone without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. This sounds rather basic, but the new millennium, characterized by globalization, persistent poverty, the quest for economic prosperity, new threats to security, and environmental changes, among others, bring with it challenges to realization of the fundamental human rights which we have all agreed to uphold.

The abundance of resolutions in this august Committee tell it all: that human rights are affected when people live in conditions of poverty and conflict, that human rights of the vulnerable groups, such as women, children, the poor, indigenous people, migrants and persons with disabilities, are easily marginalized or trampled upon, that the aim to preserve national peace and security or to protect national borders can affect or deny the human rights of people, that the quest for economic prosperity can leave some with almost nothing, that horrible ways of treating people, such as through torture, exist even in these modern times, and many more.

Mr. Chairman,

What is genuine political commitment to human rights? There may not be a definitive answer, but we know that it means going beyond the signing or ratification of treaties and conventions. Political commitment to human rights includes an intrinsic drive to translate lofty human rights standards into palpable and concrete national human rights frameworks and actions that allow people to have a fair and just opportunity to enable self-actualization and development. Political commitment also means being serious in providing the capacities and resources to make human rights a reality on the ground. It requires the necessary humility to be open to objective and non-politicized evaluations of progress. Political commitment to human rights entails a meaningful engagement with all stakeholders, for it is only when we – governments, the international community, civil society and private sector— pursue human rights together that we can also collectively guard against violations to these. Finally, political commitment to human rights recognizes the need for States to encourage and assist one another during times of human rights crises, without attaching political motives to human rights assistance and support.

Mr. Chairman,

I would also like to take this opportunity to share some developments with regard to the Philippines’ efforts to promote human rights.

In recent past, the issue of politically motivated killings and extra-judicial killings has seized the utmost attention of the Philippine Government as reports of these violations surfaced. Following a condemnation of these occurrences in the most serious terms by the government, a series of institutional, operational and judicial actions had been put in place to address this issue. No less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had made this priority. In addition to swift government action, the Philippines continues to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions as part of follow through actions. In November 2007, an inter-agency Task Force Against Political Violence was established, with a specific mandate to investigate cases and prosecute perpetrators. This Task Force is guided by utmost transparency in its work, an undeterred focus on the monitoring and resolution of cases and a pragmatism in the implementation of measures to address cases of political violence and extrajudicial killings. In addition, the promulgation and implementation of the writ of amparo and the writ of habeas data in the Philippine judicial system provide stronger protection to victims of violence and their families. As a result of the government’s efforts, and with the cooperation of civil society, the incidence of these reported killings in the Philippines has drastically dropped by eighty-three (83) per cent.

Mr. Chairman,

The Philippines’ commitment to human rights remains paramount even in the midst of securing peace in the country. For example, in the peace processes being pursued by the Philippines with non-state groups, the protection of human rights is integral. This is demonstrated by the continued monitoring of human rights issues in insurgency conflicts, as well as the systematic incorporation of international human rights and humanitarian law provisions in the conduct of the work of the Philippine armed forces.

Also, the Philippines reaffirms the protection of human rights in all counter-terrorism measures. This is why in the crafting of the Philippine Human Security Act of 2007, strong safeguards against human rights violations have been included. Thus, the Philippine counter-terrorism strategy is one that integrates security, law enforcement, development and human rights, in keeping with the UN Global Counter-terrorism Strategy.

Mr. Chairman,

In conclusion, my delegation is pleased to contribute to the global effort to promote the full enjoyment of human rights, including through the Philippines’ domestic successes in this field. Our work here at the United Nations, in particular through the revitalized Human Rights Council, indeed complements and facilitates States’ own efforts to protect and promote human rights in their territories. My delegation hopes that the Human Rights Council, including through the Universal Periodic Review, the special procedures and the general debates, will continue to bring us States and other stakeholders together, in a constructive and helping Spirit, to address more effectively the human rights challenges that we collectively face.

Thank you.

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