Rights Lawyers’ Take on Human Rights Day:

Aquino misses the point on human rights, sinks to new low by condoning more violations


10 December 2012

As the numbers of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests as well as other political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights violations increase halfway into the Aquino administration, Noynoy has completely missed the point with a half-hearted and ill-advised approach to human rights. We as lawyers for rights victims and who are out there on the ground believe that he has in fact laid down an environment that emboldens perpetrators, allows them to get away, and worse, sets out new targets for attack.

Such incompetence, if not inexcusable miscomprehension by the Noynoy administration of what human rights protection and promotion really is translates to callous insensitivity to the victims and their families. These are painful reminders that formal semblances of democracy have been all too vulnerable to repeating – by condoning and selectively remembering – the horror and errors of the past. The administrations’ plans have only exacerbated the lingering issues of state-sanctioned violence, military adventurism, and a climate of impunity.

State-sanctioned violence runs unabated, mostly as economic interests of the powerful run counter to the rights of the marginalized. The continuing cold-blooded and serial murders of activists, environmentalists, church people, even media men have only illustrated that the State and is at all times ready to eliminate opposition and to promote the interests of the elite.

The state also sows terror as it arrests civilians left and right, routinely misusing generic John Doe warrants and overextending the bounds of legal processes. Only sloppy investigation and ludicrous law enforcement could have yielded the egregious mistake of the high-profile arrest of security guard Rolly Panesa and insist that he is a ranking rebel leader, on the ground that he bore the same mole on the nape. Such absurdity is a remake of what happened even during the time of Noynoy’s mother when roving bands of mad men pointed to ordinary civilians in the poor ghettoes for similar harebrained grounds.

The non-arrest of Gen. Jovito Palparan, number one on the public’s wanted list for almost a year now, is a chilling reminder that government security forces are still stolidly untouchable. The crowning promotions of officers such as Gen. Eduardo Año , Gen. Aurelio Baladad, and Gen. Jorge Segovia seriously accused of various grave violations also belie any pretense at accountability rather than any minutest proof of a shred of basic circumspection in decision-making.

So how now will the victims and their families believe that the much-hyped creation of yet another inter-agency task force on rights violations via Administrative Order No 35 will improve the situation? As the administration desperately tries to eke out any modicum of effective approach to the palpable trend of violations, it fails to exude determination and sincerity. How can the State produce a credible report of violations when its very officials and instrumentalities who are directly and indirectly implicated are part of the new caboodle?

More so, the creation of this task force is a public acknowledgment of an inutile Commission of Human Rights (CHR). Noynoy has cleverly transformed the CHR, which through its chair has espoused a convoluted and rhetorical approach to liability, into practically no more than a defender of his administration and whitewasher of even the most abominable violations in plain view.

The task force ultimately, is regretfully a pretentious and belated response to a problem that needs concrete action and a correct framework. This is a time when the victims and their families are clamoring for effective investigation and proactive, speedy and dogged prosecution, things which the Noynoy has by and large yet to deliver. So far, self-help and grassroots support have been the only main instrumental mechanisms in pushing the complaints into the legal system, where even so there is no promise of certain relief.

The lack of a fundamental understanding of urgency, and of the vulnerability of some groups is classic Noynoy. As he continues to deny that there are political prisoners, he even sets out new targets in a bounty list of 235 suspected state enemies. Undisclosed and with no verifiable basis, the list will definitely be used to harass political activists and leaders of peoples’ organizations with or without legal charges. The NUPL has asked the DND and DILG to come clean with this list immediately; otherwise, there will be another institutionalized utter disregard of the right to due process.

Noynoy alternately plays down and overemphasizes human rights issues in what is objectively a calculated bid to confuse people about inaction and counter-productive efforts. Obviously, there is nothing to celebrate on International Human Rights Day, not while his administration continues to show an appalling lack of will, foresight, ability and
sensitivity in addressing persistent Philippine human rights concerns amidst the cries for justice by the victims and the families.#

Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General (+639175113373)

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– Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message at the
NUPL Founding Congress, September 15, 2007

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– Atty. Romeo T. Capulong, NUPL founding chairperson, in his keynote
address at the Fifth Conference of Lawyers in Asia Pacific ( COLAP V), September 18, 2010