Rights groups to again present to UNHRC the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines

On the 16th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice), an ecumenical delegation of Philippine human rights organizations and advocates for the defense and promotion of human rights in the country, will again send a delegation to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, to present the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines and to prepare for the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines on 2012. The Ecumenical Voice delegation will engage the UNHRC about continuing human rights violations under the Aquino administration, in its first nine months in office, and  gather support from the international human rights community to act on the continuing impunity and rights violations in the country.

The Ecumenical Voice delegation, which will be in Geneva from March 5 to 15, 2011, is composed of: Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente or IFI) and the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao ; Marie Hilao-Enriquez of KARAPATAN, Cristina Palabay of Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women-Association of Women Human Rights Defenders); Atty. Rey Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers; Girlie Padilla of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace; and Rhonda Ramiro of the San Francisco Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines.

One of the Morong 43 health workers illegally arrested and detained in February last year, Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, will also join the delegation to file a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture. She will also give an oral intervention about her ordeal before the Rights Council. In June last year, her husband Jigs Clamor of Karapatan, also appealed to the Council in its 14th Session.

The delegation shall also bring to the attention of the council the continuing spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, specially the killing of botanist Leonard Co and his companions. The human rights alliance Karapatan has documented 40 victims of extrajudicial killings since Aquino took office.

“The continuing violations of the rights of the Filipino people by state agents is a reason for us to be alarmed,” Enriquez stated. “Until now, many of the recommendations of former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Prof. Philip Alston have not and are not being implemented, and impunity still prevails in the country.”

Enriquez also added that they will bring the cases of threats and attacks against human rights defenders, internally displaced persons, victims of arbitrary detention to the Council among others.   The UNHRC is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe.  The Council was created by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.

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Ecumenical Voice reports back on their engagement at the UN Human Rights Council, issues challenge to president-elect Noynoy Aquino on the continuing human rights violations in the Philippines

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES — At a press conference following a successful attendance to and participation in the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland from June 1-10, the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice for brevity) vows to monitor the human rights situation in the Philippines under the new government. They also issued a challenge to President-elect Noynoy Aquino to fulfill his promise to prosecute President Macapagal-Arroyo and other human rights violators, accord justice to the victims of human rights violations, discontinue Oplan Bantay Laya and never embark on any similar policy.

The Ecumenical Voice delegation to the 14th Session of the UNHRC was composed of: Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr. (General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines), Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez (Chairperson, Karapatan), Atty. Edre Olalia (acting Secretary General, National Union of People’s Lawyers and President, International Association of People’s Lawyers), Mr. Jigs Clamor (Deputy Secretary General, Karapatan and husband of Dr. Merry Clamor of the Morong 43), Atty. Carlos Zarate (Secretary General, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao); and Dr. Angie Gonzalez (International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines).

At the UNHRC, the Ecumenical Voice was able to deliver two oral interventions. One intervention delivered by Mr. Jigs Clamor highlighted the plight of the 43 health workers, also known as the Morong 43, and he urged the Council to look into the incident. Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr. who delivered the other intervention, referred to the repressive effects of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) as an anti-insurgency policy of the Arroyo government. He expressed the hope that the Human Rights Council will urge the government of President-elect Benigno Aquino, III to fulfil his campaign promise of prosecuting the perpetuators of human rights violations in the Philippines and abide by the government’s commitments and pledges to international human rights instruments. These oral interventions are available on the UNHRC’s webcast.

The Ecumenical Voice also held two side events and participated actively in one.

The first side event on June 2, had Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, among the panel of speakers. Even as his term as Special Rapporteur ends in July this year, he expressed continuing interest on human rights developments in the Philippines. He also praised human rights advocates and defenders in the Philippines, for comprehensive and well-documented presentations both to the international community and during those times he was preparing his reports. Alston shared his thoughts on what a new administration might encounter in the midst of the impunity reigning in the country. Prof. Alston warned that the newly elected president is most likely to be advised by some other state actors to go slow on his campaign promise to prosecute the perpetrators of the killings and other human rights violations in the Philippines. “The President-elect will likely be reminded that he is heavily dependent on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, not to cause problems and that any prosecution will alienate the military,” Alston said. This activity was co-sponsored by the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA/ WCC), the United Methodist Church – General Board on Church and Society (UMC-GBCS), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and endorsed by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).

Lawyers Edre Olalia and Carlos Zarate participated in the June 3 side event organized by the Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation, Judges for Judges and the International Commission of Jurists, which highlighted the plight of human rights lawyers and judges all over the world. During the side event, Brazilian Judge Gabriela C. Knaul de Albuquerque e Silva, the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, committed to look into the situation of attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges and expressed that she was open to a possible country visit.

The last side event held on June 4, organized by the delegation and co-sponsored by the Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation) and the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), drew attention to the plight of the 43 health workers, popularly known as the Morong 43. Among the panelists were Mr. Jigs Clamor and Ms. Marie Enriquez of KARAPATAN, Atty Edre Olalia of NUPL and Ms. Coco Quisumbing, of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Clamor and Enriquez discussed the circumstances of the arrest and detention of the health workers in relation to the human rights situation in the Philippines while Olalia, as counsel to the health workers, discussed the ramifications on the legal as well as on other institutions in the country of this case described by the delegation as “emblematic of human rights violations in the Philippines.”
The World Council of Churches (WCC), thru Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Director for International Affairs and Ms. Christina Papazoglou, CCIA-WCC Executive Director for Human Rights, also invited the delegation to share the status of human rights in the Philippines to an audience at the WCC headquarters. The WCC is a consistent partner of the Philippine churches and other non-government organizations in human rights advocacy. A highlight of the delegation’s visit to the WCC was a call to Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC, who assured the delegation of WCC’s continuing support.

Towards the end of their trip, the Ecumenical Voice accompanied KARAPATAN to formally bring the Morong 43 incident before the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The same communications were submitted to the offices of the Mr. Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali, Vice-Chair Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council.

As an act of solidarity, Atty. Olalia, as duly authorized by the IADL Bureau, together with representatives of IADL and the American Association of Jurists, submitted communications to the offices of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on Arbitary Detention. The communication was about the arrest in Rwanda of Peter Erlinder, the former US National Lawyers Guild president.

Finally, the Ecumenical Voice thanks the following partners for supporting the delegation at the Council session: The World Council of Churches, The Lutheran World Federation, the United Church of Christ in Canada, the General Board on Church and Society of the United Methodist Church in the USA, the Action Network Human Rights-Philippines based in Germany, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Migrante Geneva and Migrante Bern, Franciscans International, CIVICUS, the World Organization against Torture (OMCT), Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the American Association of Jurists, the Pilipino community in Geneva and the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGO).

After the UN Geneva activities, delegation members also met with the EU Parliament Human Rights Unit Administrator Mr. Dionyz Hochel. The delegation briefed and gave him documents of the Morong 43 situation and he told the group that he will convey the delegation’s concern to the members of the EU Parliament Human Rights Committee. Through the lobbying efforts of the ICCHRP, Intal and other solidarity groups in Belgium, the delegation was also met by Mr. Florimond Van de Velde, Principal Administrator for South-East Asia of the European Commission, as well as Dr. Malgorzata Gorska, Policy Desk Officer of the Human Rights Unit of the EC, both of whom assured the group that the EU remains committed to ensuring the observance of human rights promotion and protection in their dealings with the governments, including the new administration in the Philippines. They expressed hope that cases of human rights violations will be prosecuted under the new administration.###

KARAPATAN files report on Morong 43 to UN Special Rapporteur and Working Group

PRESS RELEASE

GENEVA, JUNE 10 – The Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines, or ECU VOICE accompanied KARAPATAN in filing a report on the Morong 43 incident to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The same report was submitted to Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council.

In his letter to Special Rapporteur, Mr. Manfred Novak and Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali, Vice-Chair Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council, Mr. Jigs Clamor said, “43 health workers in the Philippines were illegally arrested, tortured and falsely charged with common crimes and are presently detained at a detention facility at camp Bagong Diwa in Taguiug City, Metro Manila, Philippines. These community health workers, one of whom is my wife, Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, provide health services to the poor and hard-to-reach communities in the country. They were conducting a training for community health workers on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal, when a composite group of heavily armed Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Army (PA) elements raided the venue of the training, blindfolded the victims and herded them like cattle into Army trucks and brought to an undisclosed place.” Clamor is the Deputy Secretary General of KARAPATAN.

Clamor said the report is to inform the UN in Geneva of this incident now known as the Morong 43 so that the Human Rights Council can help urge the Philippine government to render justice to the victims. The Philippine government is a member of the Council. Clamor said “the Morong 43, like the case of the massacre of 57 Filipinos in Ampatuan,
Maguindanao, Philippines in November 2009, is emblematic of the gross, systematic human rights violations and the brazen impunity by which these are committed by the perpetrators, occurring in the country. These violations are being committed under the framework of a brutal, vicious counter-insurgency program being implemented by the Arroyo administration to supposedly end the insurgency upon the end of President Arroyo’s term in June of this year.”

Clamor expressed the hope that the Human Rights Council will look into the Morong 43 “and help us realize some remedies for our loved ones, if not their immediate release from prison.”

The ECU VOICE delegation attended the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The delegation is composed Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), with Marie Hilao Enriquez, Chairperson of the human rights alliance, KARAPATAN, Atty. Edre
Olalia, Acting Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Atty. Carlos Zarate, Secretary General of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) and one of the lawyers for Atty. Connie Brizuela who was among the victims of the Ampatuan massacre; Dr. Angie Gonzales of the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, and Jigs Clamor, Deputy Secretary General of KARAPATAN.

Oral Intervention Delivered by Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)

Oral Intervention Delivered by Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
14th Session of the Human Rights Council
On Item No. 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to development

June 8, 2010

Rev. Rex Reyes (seated left, middle row) bringing to the attention of the UNHRC the human rights situation in the Philippines

Thank you, Mr. President,

This is a joint statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the American Association of Jurists, the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the American Indian Treaty Council and a Philippine NGO under the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights.

We thank Professor Philip Alston for his trailblazing efforts into the issues of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. His report and recommendations on the Philippines in 2008 as well as his report to this 14th Session are outstanding pieces of work that human rights advocates and defenders in the Philippines find very instructive and helpful.

Mr. President, today the human rights watchdog in the Philippines, KARAPATAN has documented 1,192 cases of extrajudicial killings since 2001. The latest victim is Mr. Mike Rivera, who was a former city government official and was a known anti-mining advocate. He was gunned down on May 16, 2010 while on his way to church in a region south of Manila.

KARAPATAN has also documented 205 cases of enforced disappearances and 1,028 cases of torture and hundreds more of other cases of various human rights violations in the different parts of the country, victimizing farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, social activists, religious, lawyers and journalists. The most recent highlighted cases of the Maguindanao Massacre in November last year and the illegal arrest and continued detention of 43 health workers in February of this year have pointed to the involvement of state security forces. Never since the Martial Law years have human rights violations in our country occurred with so much impunity as now.

Mr. President, the Philippines has just gone through a national election. The presumptive President-elect has campaigned on a platform of prosecuting the perpetrators of these human rights violations.

We urge this Council to help us make the presumptive President-elect stand by his campaign promise. We appeal to this Council to urge our government to stop Operation Bantay Laya, or Operation Freedom Watch or OBL as an anti-insurgency policy. OBL makes no distinction between armed combatants and civilians. Its continued implementation has caused massive human rights violations whose victims cut across all sectors in Philippine society. May this Council be steadfast in urging our government neither to engage in nor adopt any similar policy in the future.

Finally, we urge this Council to continue helping us monitor our government, that it may abide by its pledges and commitments to international instrumentalities and to implement the recommendations that it has accepted and committed to. Thank you, Mr. President.

Oral Intervention Delivered by Roneo Clamor on behalf of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizens Participation

Oral Intervention Delivered by Roneo Clamor on behalf of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizens Participation

Item No. 4 Human Rights situations that require the Council’s attention

14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

8 June 2010

Roneo Clamor (seated, far left), husband of Morong 43 detainee Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor and Karapatan deputy secretary general, brings the case of the Morong 43 to the UNHRC

Thank you, Mr. President,

I am a human rights defender belonging to a human rights organization in the Philippines, a partner organization of Civicus. This statement is supported by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Franciscans International, the Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada and the American Association of Jurists.

We are concerned about the continuing attacks on human rights defenders in the Philippines, and we would like to bring to the Council’s attention particularly the case of the 43 health workers who promote the right to health by rendering healthcare services to the difficult to reach communities but whose rights are continuously being grossly violated. On February 6, this year, they were arrested by state security forces using a faulty warrant and were falsely labeled as members of the rebel movement. They were incommunicado and denied counsel for six days.
The military filed false charges against them for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, to justify their arrest and their continued detention without bail. Other legal shortcuts were resorted to and the Philippine government has used a Marcos-era legal rule to deprive them of their liberty. The Philippine authorities have avoided or questioned any inquiry into their accountability for human rights violations before the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.

For almost three months, the health workers, who have come to be called the Morong 43, were detained in a military camp where they were repeatedly interrogated without counsel, subjected to various forms of coercion, intimidation and indignities as well as psychological torture and deprived of sleep. Some of their relatives have also experienced threats and intimidation.

To date, the 43 health workers are still detained. At present, 38 of them have been transferred and are detained at a regular detention facility, after a loud campaign undertaken by the relatives, local as well as international civil society organizations. The 5 other health workers are still under the military custody, after they have been coerced, intimidated and given lawyers by the military to speak against their interests.

We therefore appeal to the Council to look into this case and to employ all appropriate measures, and urge the Philippine government to respect its pledges and commitments during its UPR as well as its obligations in major human rights instruments. We also call on the Council to strongly urge our government to stop the practice of filing of trumped-up charges against those who are being tagged as its enemies in the context of implementing a counter-insurgency program. Or else, the brazen impunity for gross violations of human rights in my country will continue, contrary to the objectives and efforts of this Council.

Thank you for your attention, Mr. President.

Ecumenical Voice Brings Morong 43 Incident to the Attention of the UN Human Rights Council; urges Council to monitor RP compliance to obligations and pledges

PRESS RELEASE – 08 JUNE 2010

GENEVA, JUNE 8 – Speaking at the general debate on matters that needed the attention of the UN Human Rights Council, a delegate of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines brought to the Council’s attention the arrest of forty three health workers in Morong, Rizal last February 6, 2010. Mr. Jigs Clamor, husband of one of the detained doctors and deputy secretary general of KARAPATAN, said the health workers were held incommunicado, deprived of sleep, denied counsel, coerced, threatened, intimidated and subjected to indignities and various forms of torture.

Facts indubitably demonstrated that evidence was planted to justify their arrest before they were then summarily and baselessly branded as armed rebels by the military. “False charges that are non-bailable under Philippine laws were leveled against them…and the military avoided or questioned any inquiry into their accountability to human rights violations before the Commission on Human Rights”, Clamor said. “Legal shortcuts were resorted to and the Philippine government used a draconian Marcos-era legal rule to deprive them of their liberty,” he continued.

Clamor enjoined the Council to look into the incident, “employ appropriate measures and to urge the Philippine government to respect its pledges and commitments made during the Universal Periodic Review and its obligations to human rights instruments.” Clamor also asked the Council to urge the Philippine government to stop the practice of filing trumped up charges “else brazen impunity shall continue.”

Clamor’s intervention was supported by the CIVICUS, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada and the Association of American Jurists.

Earlier in the day Rev. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, delivered an oral intervention along similar lines. Speaking at the general debate on the reports of the special rapporteurs, Reyes underscored the impunity that Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan “Freedom Watch”) has wrought on Filipinos.

He appealed to the Council “to urge our government to stop Oplan Bantay Laya …as an anti-insurgency policy (as it) makes no distinction between armed combatants and civilians”. He added that Oplan Bantay Laya’s “continued implementation has caused massive human rights violations whose victims cut across all sectors of Philippine society”.

Reyes also sought the Council’s help in seeing to it that presumptive President-elect Benigno Aquino III stands by his campaign promise to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations in the
Philippines. The presumptive president-elect should neither engage nor adopt any policy similar to Oplan Bantay Laya in the future, he said. Reyes expressed the hope that the Council will monitor how the government abides “by its pledges and commitments to international instruments and to implement the recommendations that it has accepted and committed to.”

The oral intervention of Rev. Reyes was supported by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, Lawyers Rights Watch of Canada, the Indian Council of South America, and the American Association of Jurists.

Aside from Rev. Reyes and Mr. Clamor the other members of the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines are Atty. Edre Olalia, acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of KARAPATAN and Dr. Angie Gonzales of the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

The Ecumenical Voice is in Geneva for the 14th Session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. They are set to meet selected Special Rapporteurs or their human rights officers and some major international NGOs. ##

World Council of Churches to continue monitoring the HR situation in the Philippines; expresses deep concern and solidarity with Morong 43 Health Workers

PRESS RELEASE – 07 JUNE 2010

GENEVA, JUNE 7 – In a clear signal of continuing solidarity with the churches and human rights defenders in the Philippines, the World Council of Churches through its Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA-WCC) invited the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (EVPHRP) to speak before an audience at the WCC headquarters here.

In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, Director of CCIA-WCC said the WCC has supported the human rights work in the Philippines “for as long as I can remember” and will continue to do so for as long as human rights violations go on. He said the WCC, through its General Secretary, is one of the international organizations that issued statements in support of the call for the release of forty three health workers who were arrested on February 6. He noted the strong partnership between the churches in the Philippines and non-government organizations that take a principled stand on human rights protection. Also, lending support was Ms. Christina Papazoglou, WCC’s Programe Executive for Human Rights.

A highlight of the presentation of the EVPHRP was the case of the illegal arrest, torture and continuing detention of the 43 health workers, more popularly known as the Morong 43. Mr. Jigs Clamor, a member of the delegation and husband of one of the medical doctors of the Morong 43, narrated how his family suffered and continues to suffer while his wife is under detention. He said his wife was told by the military officers of reprisals to her family unless she admits that she and the others are members of the New People’s Army. “This is the same story with the families of the other detainees,” Clamor said. For six days following their arrest, the Philippine Army denied them visitorial rights by their families and legal counsel. He thanked the WCC for calling for the release of the health workers.

Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of the Philippine human rights watchdog, KARAPATAN, and a victim of torture during the Martial Law years, said that international pressure is important for human rights work in the Philippines. The number of victims shoots up, each time nobody is watching, she said. Atty. Edre Olalia, acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a legal counsel of the Morong 43 discussed briefly the legal twist and turns they are confronted with amidst the impunity. All kinds of human rights violations at every juncture were heaped on the Morong 43 , he said as he enumerated the extensive grounds for citing the arrest and detention as illegal.

For his part, Fr. Rex Reyes, Jr., General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, underscored the necessity of living out the words of Jesus Christ who said “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly”. He said the defense of human rights goes beyond political boundaries as, in the process, one speaks and declares hope where it seems not to exist. He underscored the need to affirm the church’s self-understanding as being for and with people. “We do our best to preserve human dignity in that part of the world, conscious of the fact that we are your representatives there. It is an ecumenical task”, Reyes said as he reiterated the WCC’s definition of ecumenism. He thanked the WCC for its unwavering accompaniment to the churches in the Philippines.

Following the session, the delegation paid a call on WCC General Secretary Dr. Olav Fykes Tveit. In welcoming the delegation, Dr. Tveit expressed the WCC’s support to the work of the churches for the defense of human dignity and assured the delegation of his continuing interest on the case of the Morong 43. The delegation is in Geneva to attend the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. ###