International Women’s Day: Philippine Rights Delegation at the UN Call for Justice for Filipina Human Rights Defenders, Raise Child Rights Violations under Aquino
[Geneva, 9 March 2012] Speaking at a side event organized by the International Service for Human Rights and the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition during the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Tanggol Bayi-Karapatan spokesperson and Philippine UPR Watch convener Cristina Palabay today enjoined international NGOs and women’s organizations to support the call for justice for Filipina human rights defenders who were victims of state violence and terror under the Arroyo and the current Aquino administration.
She cited the cases of disappeared UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and journalist and human rights worker Benjaline Hernandez as among the unresolved cases in the Philippines under the Arroyo administration, as Arroyo and her top military generals such as Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan remain scot-free from prosecution and arrest on these rights abuses.
“Such climate of impunity prevails to this day, under the one and a half years under President Benigno Aquino III, with 67 cases of extrajudicial killings, four of the victims women, three of them women human rights defenders and one seven-year old child Sunshine Jabinez. Oplan Bayanihan, the current counter-insurgency program, has legitimized the militarization of communities resulting to forced evacuations, threats, harassment, torture, and indiscriminate firing, the rape and sexual abuse among the civilian population, most of them women and children,” Palabay stated.
She also scored the increasing US military presence in the country, citing recent reports on the deployment of some 6,000 US troops in Palawan for Balikatan military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines next month. This, she said, can result to more violations and wanton disregard for the rights and dignity of Filipinas, as in many cases of violence perpetrated by these soldiers.
Meanwhile, Palabay, in an oral intervention read for her by Maribel Mapanao of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-Switzerland, brought to the attention of the international rights body the cases of violence against children in schools, their homes and communities perpetrated by state security forces.
“Soldiers turn day care centers and schools into their temporary camps while conducting military operations. Hence classes are suspended when there are military operations, depriving the children of their right to education and to an environment conducive to learning without fear. This month, officials of the military in Mindanao threatened nuns in a Catholic school to remove their streamer calling for justice for an Italian missionary who was recently killed,” stated in her intervention through Civicus-World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
She also cited the recruitment of minors in the paramilitary and the illegal arrest, detention and torture of children to force them to admit that they were members of the underground New People’s Army. Upon investigation, these children were proven to be children of residents of the communities where there were ongoing military operations. They have been taken from their communities and uprooted from their simple lives and have experienced severe distress and fear.
Palabay and Mapanao were joined in the Philippine UPR Watch delegation by their colleagues from the Philippines Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL); Nardy Sabino of the Promotion of the Church People’s Response (PCPR); and Sr. Stella Matutina of the environmental advocacy group, Panalipdan! Mindanao and Barug Katungod Mindanao consortium of human rights defenders.
The group has met and briefed several foreign diplomatic missions and various international NGOs based in Geneva as well as representatives of UN human rights special procedures and the Filipino migrant community on the state of human rights in the Philippines. They have expressed deep concern and keen interest over the reports on the ground and shared the overwhelming clamor to have the perpetrators accountable particularly the likes of Gen. Palparan who has thumbed his nose at the government as he continues to be in hiding.
The Philippine government will be subjected to the mandatory second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council this May 28 to June 3, 2012, where its compliance with its obligations to international human rights covenants and its responses to the recommendations during the first UPR cycle in 2008 will be put to international scrutiny. #
Please see the video on the Oral Intervention on the Report of the UN Special Representative to the Secretary General: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2012/03/civicus-joint-statement-id-on-violence-and-the-sale-of-children-25th-meeting.html.