Filipino Rights Workers File Complaints on Violent Demolitions and Arbitrary Detention before the UN, Ask Support of Int’l Commu

[Geneva, Switzerland March 14, 2012] The Philippine UPR Watch, an ecumenical delegation of Philippine human rights organizations and advocates that engages in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), capped the delegation’s activities in Geneva, Switzerland by filing complaints before the offices of UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik and Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Chair Malick Sow on the continuous rights violations under Philippine Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. 

In behalf of Demolition Watch Network, a group of urban poor leaders and advocates for rights to decent housing and livelihood, the group lamented the “intensified violent evictions of residents in urban poor communities in the Philippines and the continuing violations on the right to adequate housing and other human rights.”

“Under the new administration of President Aquino, Demolition Watch Network documented more than 50 incidents of violent eviction of homes in Metro Manila alone, from 19 communities and affecting more than 16,000 families.  Thousands of families were left homeless and jobless, millions worth of livelihood and properties were destroyed and many children stopped schooling and were traumatized,” said Nardy Sabino, secretary general of the Promotion for Church People’s Response and convener of Phil. UPR Watch. 

Sabino further cited the recent cases of violent evictions in Brgy. Corazon de Jesus, San Juan City and communities along the Phil. National Railway Site, where hundreds of police personnel and demolition teams were deployed to violently disperse and illegally arrest residents and supporters asserting their right to tenure in the areas where they live.

“These evictions are being conducted to pave the way for so-called development projects, but these only resulted to increase the number of poor Filipinos who are forced to live on the streets and become homeless. They live in makeshift tents, as small as animal cages, with no water and electricity. They endured cold nights, typhoons; heavy rains and floods in their tents. They have nowhere to go. Worst of all, every now and then, the government forces have no mercy and forcibly evict them from their tents instead of giving them decent housing and help them in restoring their lives,” he added. 

Sr. Stella Matutina OSB of Panalipdan Mindanao meanwhile said along with violent demolitions and violation on the rights to decent and adequate housing, there are continuous occurrences of arbitrary arrests and detention of individuals and activists. 

The group filed complaints on the cases of artist Ericson Acosta and film student Maricon Montajes before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, among the 347 political prisoners (as of December 31, 2011) who were arrested and are currently detained under Aquino’s watch. 

“Despite its denial of the existence of political prisoners in the country, the Aquino administration can never hide the fact that political prisoners continue to be violated for each day they remain inside jail under his administration. Criminalization of alleged political offenses, a widespread practice to hide the political nature of the illegal arrests and trumped-up cases filed against these individuals and activists, remains a salient feature of Aquino’s counter-insurgency policy Oplan Bayanihan,” Matutina said. 

The mission likewise conducted several activities to call for the support of the international community to press the Aquino government to step up its efforts for the immediate arrest of Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.

“It has been three months since the warrant of arrest was issued against Palparan and as he remains scot-free, he continues to insult the victims by remaining at-large. Palparan, by evading arrest, also mocks and makes a fool of the P-Noy government,” said Cristina Palabay, spokesperson of Karapatan. The delegation also distributed and showed Wanted: Palparan posters during their activities in the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Sabino, Matutina and Palabay were joined in the Philippine UPR Watch delegation by Atty. Edre Olalia of the NUPL and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL); and, Maribel Mapanao of the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP)– Switzerland.

The group met and briefed various foreign diplomatic missions and 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. The Philippines will be subjected to the second cycle of the UPR this May 28 to June 3, 2012.