February 24, 2016
“Make Human Rights the core of your governance.”- HR groups challenge candidates
Human rights groups today challenged all candidates in the 2016 national and local elections to support the Human Rights Agenda as their electoral platform.
Gathering in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Quezon City, at a media forum in celebration of the 30th anniversary of EDSA, entitled “Human Rights from Aquino to Aquino: EDSA @30: A Civil Society Assessment of Gains, Reverses and Challenges”, about one hundred (100) human rights defenders led by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) has launched the Human Rights Agenda 2016 in the lead up to the May 2016 elections.
“The Human Rights Agenda will be brought to the attention of all candidates and political parties in this coming May elections. This agenda also presupposes a range of human rights violations in the different branches of government that must be addressed in developing a National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) for the next administration,” Max de Mesa, PAHRA Chairperson said. “Furthermore,” he stressed, “we must progressively struggle for greater freedoms and fuller enjoyment of our rights.”
The changing landscape offers a significant opportunity for ensuring protection and promotion of human rights in the agenda of the next administration.
The Human Rights Agenda outlines 10-point areas for Rights-Based governance; fulfilment of international human rights obligations; ending impunity; ensuring peace and security; promotion of economic, social and cultural rights; environmental protection; national actions towards climate justice; respecting and protecting the land and resource rights of indigenous peoples; and protection of human rights defenders.
Likewise, the Human Rights Agenda presents an opportunity to systematically consider the Philippine government’s strengths and address its shortcomings in human rights laws and practice.
Rose Trajano, PAHRA Secretary-General added the Executive’s Second Philippine Human Rights Plan (PHRP II) that was presented by the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) in November 2015 at “Ugnayang Bayan”. The PHRC II supposedly contained information about the government’s accomplishments based on various United Nations Treaty Bodies is a source of great concern to the civil society community. The said concern was due to lack of transparency and public participation in the development of the PHRP II.
Much like the past national elections, the runoff to the country’s May 2016 national elections has brought together a cast of old and new characters from the Philippines’ on-going democratic evolution.
The Constitution provides for anti-political dynasty law. However, the anti-political dynasty bill will not be passed by the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino III next year.
In the media forum, after 30 years of EDSA, PAHRA stressed that when Aquino term ends, his administration will be remembered for lost ground on bold measures in breaking through impunity, especially in the face of increased violations in the arena of economic, social and cultural rights.
The government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) is not sufficiently implemented since it hardly inspires confidence in the witnesses that they are well protected if they participated in the trial. Six years since the Ampatuan massacre, the trial against 197 accused, including eight members of the Ampatuan family and 70 police and military officers, started in January 2010. Two other prosecution witnesses have been killed since.
Aquino’s pledge of revoking Executive Order (EO) No. 546 s. 2006, is nothing more of a publicity stunt as paramilitary groups continues to wreak havoc in mining affected communities in Mindanao, such as the Magahat-Bagani, a paramilitary group that had been tagged for allegedly killing the executive director of a tribal school in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur province on Sept. 1, 2015 that caused the evacuation of some 2,000 residents of Diatagon village.
“We challenge all the candidates to put human rights at the center of electoral platforms. The challenge now is to ensure the public make an informed decision who they should vote for based on issues in determining the outcome of the May elections,” de Mesa continued.
“The Human Rights Agenda highlights that taking action to address those issues not only strengthens the human rights at stake, it ultimately helps ensure that economic growth is more sustainable and inclusive, criminal justice more effective, women and girls more empowered, and freedom and democracy more robust,” PAHRA Chairperson Max de Mesa concluded. -end-