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Philippines faces tough grilling on human rights record

The Philippine government will be represented by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the universal periodic review before the United Nations Human Rights Council later this month in Geneva, Switzerland.

A total of 71 countries are set to scrutinize the Philippines’ human rights record when it faces the United Nations Human Rights Council later this month, according to militant and rights groups whose members are going to Geneva to monitor the proceedings.

The activists have prepared their own alternative report challenging the government’s position on the state of human rights in the country and will be distributing copies of their report to the UN member states scheduled to pose questions to the Philippine delegation, said Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan who is one of 14 activists scheduled to fly to Switzerland to monitor the review.

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This is the second time the Philippines will undergo the universal periodic review before the intergovernmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. The government will be represented by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the proceedings.

Reyes said the Philippines failed in its commitment to eliminate extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and that its official report on its human rights situation left much to be desired.

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“The Philippine report is very underwhelming and provides no clear measure of progress in the Philippine human rights situation. On the contrary, the report glosses over the continuing human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,” Reyes said in a statement.

He also said the Philippines continued to implement an anti-insurgency program that targeted activists.

Among the countries lined up to question the Philippines are China, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Holy See, France, Belgium and Japan. South Korea will be first in line, followed by the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Each country has one minute and 44 seconds to ask their question.

Malacañang on Tuesday maintained that there was an improvement in the human rights situation under President Benigno Aquino III compared to previous years, and said that there was a decline in the number of extrajudicial killings in the past three years.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said these “developments” would be among those to be presented by the Philippine delegation to the UN on May 29.

Valte said that according to the Philippine National Police Task Force Usig, there were 27 cases of extrajudicial killings from 2008 to 2011, claiming that this was a “decline,” noting that there had been 166 cases of extrajudicial killings since 2001.

Valte attributed the decline to the work of various agencies, citing as an example the human rights handbook put out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines which was being used to train soldiers. The military also continues to work with human rights advocacy groups, she said.

Originally posted: 6:23 pm | Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

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TAGS: activism, Foreign affairs, Government, Human Rights, Military, rights, United Nations Human Rights Council
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