FOR the first time, the United Nations will send a delegation of special rapporteurs to the Philippines to conduct independent probes on extrajudicial killings, escalating human rights violations, government neglect, forced evictions and extreme poverty.
The special rapporteurs will also look specifically into the government’s slow response to issues raised by survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, seven months after the killer typhoon flattened Eastern Visayas, said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Palabay was among those that represented the Philippine human rights delegation belonging to the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights (EcuVoice) in the 26th United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, Switzerland.
“In the first quarter of 2014 , human rights group Karapatan recorded 21 victims of extrajudicial killings and 23 victims of frustrated killings under the... Aquino administration,” Palabay told the UN council, which included Philip Alston, newly appointed UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
Alston expressed keen interest in looking into the new allegations after he learned that the Aquino administration had done nothing to implement his recommendations, several years after he came out with an official report, Palabay said.
In 2007, Alston, who was then the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, came to the Philippines to investigate the cases of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo administration.
In his report seven years ago, Alston pointed to 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 rights violations.
“We 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,” Palabay said.
“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,” Palabay said.
Among the rapporteurs who will be coming to investigate are Chaloka Beyani and Gabriela Knaul, Palabay said.
Palabay said Beyani, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, is slated to conduct his official visit this year.
Knaul has yet to secure an invitation from the Philippine government following her request to visit the Philippines, she added.
During the UN conference, EcuVoice also submitted a 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 family of President Benigno Aquino III 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 the UN,” Palabay said.
She said Geneva-based country missions of Ireland, Austria, Canada, Norway and The Netherlands met with Filipino rights advocates on the continuing extrajudicial killings, 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.
Typhoon Yolanda survivor Rev. Irma Balaba, assistant program secretary of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations program of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, emphasized that “seven months after the typhoon, hunger, absence of decent shelter or housing, and a dearth of livelihood pervade among several communities in the Eastern Visayas region.”
“More than seven months after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines, the survivors continue to languish in appalling conditions with scarce, if any, access to shelter, potable water, basic services, and sustainable livelihood, despite the outpouring of support from the international community,” Balaba, also a member of EcuVoice, told the UN body.
During the UN conference, the EcuVoice delegation enjoined the independent experts to look into reports of forced evacuations due to military operations, forced evictions, the continuing displacement of typhoon Yolanda victims, and the attacks against human rights lawyers in the Philippines.
Knaul was to look into the independence of judges and lawyers and the attacks against them.
Lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), provided updates for Knaul on the escalating tactics employed to jeopardize, not just the independence of lawyers and judges, but their very lives and personal security, particularly human rights lawyers.
He pointed out the continuing killings of lawyers and judges as well as various attacks like labeling, surveillance, hacking of phones and email, and filing of nuisance charges against rights lawyers.
The EcuVoice delegates also brought the issue of women detainees by highlighting the case of political prisoner Andrea Rosal, who was seven months pregnant when she was arrested and detained in March on the basis of dubious charges.
“The UN body holding sessions at Palais des Nations heard how Rosal did not receive proper, immediate and adequate maternal and pre-natal care due to the insensitivity and negligence of prison officials and guards, endured and continues to suffer inhumane treatment together with 31 other women detainees who shared her cramped and squalid cell. Still under detention, Rosal gave birth to a daughter, who died within two days,” Palabay said.
“In contrast to the inordinate delay of bringing the then expectant mother to the hospital from the infernal jailhouse, the prison officials, lawyer and doctor hastily whisked Rosal back despite the absence of any medical clearance from her attending doctors,” Palabay said.
EcuVoice asked the UN body to look into the case of Rosal for multiple violations of the 1955 UN Standard Minimum Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners and the 2010 UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders.
Also on Monday, the Palace urged lawmakers who are demanding an accounting of some P16.4 billion in foreign donations for areas devastated by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 to formalize their request.
“That (formal request for accounting) would be useful and helpful because we are one in their advocacy that there should be transparency of information and accountability of public funds,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
“In keeping the with the principles of good governance, the records of the government as to how public funds have been used are open and transparent,” Coloma added.
Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, president of Global Legislators Organization Philippines, along with various civil society groups, demanded an immediate accounting and tracking of climate change finances to ensure better planning and transparency.
“We are talking about millions of dollars that could have made a difference in the lives of the people. Knowing how it was spent should be in our list of priorities if we are keen to build strong adaptive capacity to climate change and resilient communities in the country,” Yap said.
Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, policy coordinator of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, donor-countries provided a total of $367.7 million or P16.4 billion from 2009 to 2012 for Ondoy-stricken areas.
Of the P16.4 billion, Dela Cruz said $4.1 million or P91.92 million was transmitted in 2009 in adaptation-tagged funds. The rest – or more than P15 billion – was received by the Aquino administration, Dela Cruz said.
In 2010, he said, adaptation finance inflow amounted to $186.4 million. For 2011, adaptation funding was $87.7 million, and $89.5 million in 2012.
“These funds were reported by contributor-countries through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and multilateral and bilateral banks as sources for climate change adaptation initiative funding in the country.”
“But what activities were supported? Who were the contributing countries and institutions? Which national agency or organization received adaptation funding? These are important questions,” Dela Cruz said.
Among the major donors for the Ondoy catastrophe from 2009 to 2012 were the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden Switzerland, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, Korea, New Zealand, European Union (Institutions), Canada, Italy, Ireland and such multilateral financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, UN Development Program and the World Bank, Dela Cruz said.
He said the Aquino government has yet to make public the list of projects funded by the foreign donations. With Joyce Pangco Pañares