PHILIPPINES: Barriers to human rights – How complaint and protection mechanisms fail, and why

(Geneva, September 20, 2012) The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) will launch the Article 2 special report on Philippines, entitled: The Philippines’ hollow human rights system: how complaint and protection mechanisms fail, and why, in a side event during the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council today.

The side event, titled “Human Rights in the Philippines” will be held at Room XVII, Palais des Nations, Geneva from 12:00 to 14:00 p.m.

Speakers for the event are: Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of KARAPATAN; Mr. Danilo Reyes, programme officer of the Asian Human Rights Commission; and Ms. Myrna Reblando, widow of Alejandro ‘Bong’ Reblando who was one of the 32 journalists murdered in the Maguindanao massacre.

Enriquez, who is in Geneva with other Filipino NGO representatives, will talk about the UPR and prospects for improved protection of human rights. Reyes, who prepared the Article 2 special report, will talk about the “Barriers to human rights – How complaint and protection mechanisms fail, and why”.

Ms. Reblando will give her testimony concerning her own and the difficulties faced by victims in seeking justice. She will speak via Skype.

To view a live broadcast via USTREAM, please go to:
Human Rights in Asia –

(Below is text of the speech to be delivered by Danilo Reyes, programme officer of the AHRC who prepared the report, during the side event)

Good day everyone.

This afternoon, the Human Rights Council will deliberate on the adoption of the Outcome of the second UPR review on the Philippines held in May 2012.

The extracts of the draft report of the UPR Working Group on Philippines is appended in this new Article 2 report, entitled: “The Philippines’ hollow human rights system”, published by the ALRC. This report has examined what has happened to cases, to complainants and witnesses seeking remedies in court from period 2007 to 2012.

This report looks into the operation of criminal justice institution–the police, prosecution and the judiciary–by looking at how the process of complaint making and what has happened to complainants and their witnesses in pursuing remedies and redress from the institutions of justice. To examine the operation of this institution is very important since these are the very institutions on which the UPR recommendations are relied upon for implementation.

We examined the operation of these institutions in line with the country’s obligation under the international law, notably the Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In our observation, the development of normative and legal framework, have not resulted in obtaining adequate remedy for victims of violations. Though there have been strong human rights laws adopted domestically and internationally, but the institutions which would implement them have been deeply and systemically problematic.

This undermines recommendations from foreign States under the UPR. For example, recommendations on “effective and impartial investigation” could hardly be materialized in reality because the key persons to achieve an effective investigation: the complainants and the witnesses themselves lacks adequate protection and security. Complainants had no adequate and durable protection; and even if indeed there is law which protects witnesses, those who are in the program or those being process of the program are killed.

Therefore, there are serious concerns whether the recommendation by foreign government, on “effective and impartial investigation, of ending the impunity, forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings, ensuring speedy trial,” had in the past, or in future, would result to obtaining the possibilities of remedies and redress for victims of human rights violations, given the manner how these justice institutions operate.

For many years, we have learned the operational character of the country’s criminal justice institution, where the justifications for the denial of rights and remedies, for example speedy investigation and trial, also found its way. It is good for the Netherland to draw the government’s attention to ensure speedy investigation, prosecution and trial; however, in reality delays is deeply systemic and the law legally justifies delays of cases.

The manner how these justice institutions operates, notably in the process of complaint making and protection, have largely denied or prevented any sort of remedies for the victims. The lack, if not absence of protection and of security to complainants and witnesses seeking remedies, are clear examples of the government’s pledge making its protection mechanism for human rights being hollow.

If there are no complainants and witnesses, there is no case; however, there is no adequate protection and security for them. Therefore without neither the complainants nor witnesses, perpetrators go obviously go unpunished and possibilities for prosecution and redress is bleak. We have already said this in the past, but interventions from foreign governments to improve these institutions have remained broad and detached from realities on the ground.

The strengthening and cementing of the normative and the legal framework has failed in guaranteeing adequate protection of rights. There is a flawed assumption that normative development could result to protection; however, we have concluded that these are rather ‘diplomatic victories’ for the government than for victims.

The improvement of this norms should be an opportunity; however, on how they would be applied in reality, given the manner how these criminal justice institutions operates, remains a challenge. These are the areas in which the Human Rights Council should address adequately.

Thank you.

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : ALRC-PRL-004-2012
Countries : Philippines,