H.E. Benigno Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila, NCR, 1005

Subject: Commitment to end impunity missing in Human Rights Council pledges

Your Excellency, 

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) regret that the culture of impunity for serious human rights abuses and the Philippine government’s commitment to end it is missing in the country’s voluntary pledges and commitments submitted for its bid for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council [1]. 

As we approach the one year mark of your first term as president, your promise to seek justice for victims of extra-judicial killings and to “hold murderers accountable”, contained in your first State of the Nation Address, has become a distant memory. The Filipino people and the international community have seen little substantive progress in the pursuit for justice and accountability to back up those words. Since assuming office, there was no public statement or declaration committing to sign and implement the national human rights action plan or any other policy that would promote and mainstream human rights in the your administration. 

With the re-election of the Philippines to the Human Rights Council on 20 May, your administration must demonstrate strong political will and take the necessary steps to end a persistent culture of impunity and to bring perpetrators of serious abuses to justice. This is particularly applicable to those affiliated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

In the voluntary pledges and commitments, your government promised to “enhance domestic implementation of all human rights treaty obligations and programmes.” However, serious human rights abuses continue to occur, in a context of on-going impunity. Abuses in recent months include the assassinations of Mr Gerardo Ortega, journalist and environmental rights defender in Palawan Island, and Mr. Bonifacio Labasan, who had defended farmers’ rights in Isabela Province. Local rights groups have documented as many as 40 extra-judicial killings since the advent of your administration, some of which have been linked to members of the AFP. 

In December 2010, the AFP released its Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP). The IPSP clearly stated that it is the AFP’s ‘strategic imperative’ to adhere to human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law. The AFP promised it “shall ensure the prosecution of all AFP personnel found guilty of violating HR, IHL, and other pertinent laws.” [2]. However, due to lack of explicit authoritative orders from the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, and the absence of due diligence of the Human Rights Offices of both the PNP and AFP, the statements of adherence to the primacy of human rights, unless immediately substantiated by concrete steps to break impunity, could just be perceived as mere propaganda, erode whatever gains that have been made, and undermine the credibility of and public trust in state institutions. 

We are further appalled at House Resolution 1135 before the Philippine Congress, authored by Congressman Salvador Escudero, which proposed that former President Ferdinand Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for Heroes). The resolution reportedly has the support of 215 congressional representatives. The scale and scope of human rights abuses under Marcos’s rule are immense and well documented. To bestow the status of hero on Marcos would be a grave insult and betrayal to the thousands of individuals and their families who were victims under his authoritarian rule. 

In light of the persistent failures in key areas of human rights protection, and regarding the fact that any member of the Human Rights Council should uphold the highest standards human rights standards, our organisations have the following general recommendations for your administration: 

* Conduct prompt, impartial and independent investigations into all allegations of human rights abuses implicating members of state actors, including the AFP and PNP; 

* Further strengthen and provide efficient and adequate witness protection in all cases, especially in key ones with the high likelihood of breaking impunity; 

* Publicly oppose House Resolution 1135; 

* Issue a standing invitation to all UN special procedures to conduct country visits, including the Special Rapporteurs on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on human rights defenders; and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; 

* Take the necessary measures to fully and effectively implement all the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; 

* Encourage the Senate to immediately ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and consider signing and ratifying additional human rights instruments, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

Thank you in advance for your serious consideration of our concerns and recommendations. 

Sincerely yours, 

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President 

Max de Mesa
PAHRA Chairperson 

Copies to: 

Hon. Albert del Rosario
Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs 

Hon. Leila De Lima
Secretary of Justice 

Justice Renato C. Corona
Chief Justice
Supreme Court 

Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile
Senate President
Philippine Senate 

Hon. Feliciano Belmonte
Speaker of the House
House of Representatives 

Hon. Loretta Ann Rosales
Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines 

H.E. Erlinda F. Basilio
Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva 

Press contacts: 

Arthur Manet : +33 1 43 55 90 19 / +33 6 72 28 42 94 

Karine Appy: +33 1 43 55 14 12 / +33 6 48 05 91 57


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