Throwback to Alston Report--Seven Years After: UN Rights Expert Told Impunity Persists in Philippines

06/15/2014, Geneva, Switzerland – Law Prof. Philip Alston, newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and Geneva-based country missions of Ireland, Austria, Canada, Norway and The Netherlands met with Filipino rights advocates participating in the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the continuing extrajudicial killings, labeling, filing of trumped-up charges against activists, poverty and loss of livelihood of farm workers and forced evictions of urban poor communities in the Philippines.

Alston with PH EcuVoice delegates 

In 2007, Alston, who was then the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, went to the Philippines for an official visit to investigate the cases of extrajudicial killings under the Gloria Arroyo administration. 

In what would be referred to as the Alston report, he pointed out the responsibility of the government, military and police in the targeted killings and disappearances of hundreds of political activists and those tagged as rebel supporters as part of the counter-insurgency campaign of the State. He recommended a checklist of concrete steps that the Philippine government should do to address and abate the horrendous rights violations. 

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan and member of the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (EcuVoice), told Alston that "seven years after his trendsetting report that continues to reverberate in the human rights community, most of his recommendations remain unheeded or just given lip service as impunity persists."

The delegation informed Alston and the country missions that the “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and enforced disappearances of human rights defenders, political activists, and community leaders resisting large scale development projects, particularly indigenous leaders, have severely escalated in 2014.” 

They said that in the first quarter of the year, human rights group Karapatan has recorded 21 victims of extrajudicial killings and 23 victims of frustrated killings under the Noynoy Aquino administration. 

EcuVoice also submitted to Alston report on the impoverished conditions of the 2,102 farmworkers who lost their livelihood in Hacienda Luisita and were dislocated through the maneuvers of the Cojuangco-Aquino family in implementing the Supreme Court order to redistribute the lands in the hacienda. Several complaints on the forced eviction of the urban poor in many communities in Metro Manila were also submitted to Alston. Typhoon Haiyan survivor Rev. Irma Balaba emphasized that seven months after the typhoon, hunger, absence of decent shelter/housing, and a dearth of livelihood pervade among several communities in the Eastern Visayas region. 

Alston expressed keen concern over these reports and said he will look into these issues complementary to what other UN human rights experts called mandate-holders would do. 

The delegation made the following recommendations to Alston and the Missions:

 

  1. To express strong concern about the escalation of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, filing of false charges, forced evacuation and other human rights violations in the Philippines;
  2. To enjoin the Philippine Government to effectively respond to the Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the 2012 Universal Periodic Review, and take effective measures to end impunity and eliminate extrajudicial killings;
  3. To exhort the Philippine Government to end the counter-insurgency program and stop the policy of vilification of human rights defenders and political activists;
  4. To call for the resumption of the Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National

 

Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the release of NDFP peace consultants, including Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria. 

Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) and member of the delegation, opined that if the legal and judicial environment on top of the political, socio-economic reasons for the violations continue, then the very same issues and concerns raised during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2008 and 2012 will haunt and hound the Aquino government in the next UPR in 2016. "The present legal and judicial system must be truly responsive in delivering effective justice to the victims, make the perpetrators accountable, and send the crystal-clear message that committing human rights violations will be decisively dealt with. Otherwise, it will be more like the same, if not worse," Olalia observed. 

The other members of the EcuVoice delegation at the 26th sessions of the UN HRC are Dr. Angie Gonzales, Atty. Mary Kristerie Baleva and Julie Palaganas of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

 

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