AFP, PNP human rights offices welcomed

Published by rudy Date posted on March 20, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The Action Network Human Rights (ANHR), a German-based human rights group, welcomed the creation of human rights offices by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

ANHR, whose eight-man delegation is now in the country following up cases of unexplained killings and enforced disappearances, noted that the AFP and PNP have yet to prove effective in handling or dealing with human rights abuses.

“The newly instituted Human Rights Offices within the police and the military were a positive effort to address awareness about human rights within the security forces. However, it was unclear to the delegation how effective a response these offices were with regard to cases of grave human rights abuses,” Philipp Buck, coordinator of the delegation, said in a press briefing yesterday.

ANHR-Philippines was formed in August 2007. Member organizations include Diakonie-Bread for the World, Church Development Service (EED), Misereor, Missio, Philippinenburo and United Evangelical Mission (UEM).

Buck said while there seems to be a change now in behavior of the military and the police in their dealings with human rights cases, which is that there is a tendency for the two organizations to avoid discussing the issues.

ANHR also noted that more cases should be prosecuted and the perpetrators punished, particularly with regard to command responsibility within the police and military.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said the AFP has already institutionalized among troops the observance and respect for human rights.

“We have incorporated human rights awareness in classrooms and trainings of all members of the uniformed services,” said Torres, adding that the AFP turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation a soldier who was accused of committing human rights abuse.

The group said the country’s weak judicial system is one of the factors why cases of human rights abuses continue.

Buck said that the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) has not lived up to the expectations of protecting witnesses of unexplained killings and enforced disappearance.

ANHR also proposed the separation of the WPP from the DOJ to a more credible group or civilian agency.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), which is supposed to deal with human rights abuses, has no comprehensive and credible monitoring of unexplained killings in the country.

The group said results of their week-long mission that involved roundtable discussions with media and rights groups, interviews with representatives from the Supreme Court, Commision on Human Rights (CHR), the House of Representatives, the AFP, the PNP-Task Force Usig, will be published in their after-mission report and would be released to the public in Germany and the European Union as well as to the Philippine government.

The Philippine government was criticized last week by the European Parliament for the unexplained killings but what was not revealed was that an official of the European Commission came to the country’s defense with what Malacañang has described as a balanced assessment of the situation in the country.

In a statement, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita revealed that the EC’s commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner responded to the comments made by some members of the European Parliament against the Philippine government, which were contained in a resolution passed last March 12. – Jaime Laude with Marvin Sy, Philippine Star

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