PASAY CITY 19 August 2022 — Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo reaffirmed the government’s commitment to constructive dialogue and cooperation on human rights at the virtual briefing for the diplomatic corps on 17 August 2022. He cited the leadership role of the Philippines in creating and nurturing platforms for human rights engagement in the ASEAN region and in the United Nations, and in “building bridges of trust and cooperation between our region and the UN human rights mechanisms and experts.”
The virtual briefing was organized by the DFA as part of the government’s regular updating on its human rights efforts. Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla and Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS) provided progress of commitments in the areas of good governance, accountability, and the rule of law in line with the UN Joint Program on Human Rights (UNJP), which was launched in July 2021.
Secretary Remulla underscored that the government will continue with its human rights commitments “ with even more vigor and enthusiasm.” He recounted, “When I took the helm of the DOJ last month, I bared plans to boost the efficiency of the country’s criminal justice system.”
He shared his discussion with DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos on immediate measures, including joint training and continuous learning programs for prosecutors and law enforcers in both remedial and substantive covering surveillance, procedures in conducting arrests, processing of crime scenes, and evidence preservation.
“The DOJ will be working closely with the DILG on plans to decongest our prison facilities and to implement effective rehabilitation programs for persons deprived of liberty,” according to Secretary Remulla.
As he pointed out how these priorities are fully consistent with commitments under the UNJP, he also cited milestones in strengthening investigative capacities and improved functioning of the AO 35 Mechanism or the Inter-Agency Committee that addresses extralegal killings and other grave violations of human rights.
Among the developments include a partnership with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or extralegal killings on a training program on the Minnesota Protocol on Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death; the creation of a victim support and rehabilitation sub-working group with policy discussion and capacity-building based on trauma-informed approach; and discussions on the creation of a National Referral Pathway on accountability to streamline complaint processes and facilitate investigations.
PHRCS Undersecretary Catura highlighted that his office is focused on the Executive department, ensuring the compliance of all government bodies with the country’s human rights obligations pursuant to domestic laws and international human rights law. This, he pointed out, attests to the seriousness of the State in upholding human rights as a pillar of effective governance.
Undersecretary Catura stated that the line-up of major review processes on the Philippines in the next three months would be opportunities to test-drive the newly-created digital tracking tool for human rights recommendations coming from different UN mechanisms called the National Recommendations Tracking Database.
“The Philippines’ vast civic space is home to over 101,000 non-profit organizations of which 60,000 are NGOs actively engaged in various advocacies,” underlined Undersecretary Catura. “The media environment that prides itself with over 2,000 private media entities significantly reinforces the vibrant civic space we speak of.”
Two revalidas or constructive dialogue with Human Rights Treaty Bodies are taking place in September and October, namely on the country’s compliance to the conventions on the rights of the child and on the civil and political rights, respectively.
The Philippine government also shared that preparations are in full swing for its 4th cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in November, and that it looks forward to receiving the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children in November this year and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression in 2023.
In reference to the UNJP as a framework of technical cooperation on human rights, Secretary Manalo stated that its ultimate strength is that “the commitments undertaken by the Philippines under the UNJP are not extraneous to but in fact are core to the functions of the government and to its programming. Thus, it has the highest degree of national ownership that is fundamental to its effectiveness and success.”
“The UNJP breaks new ground as an innovative tool of multilateralism, providing a better option to the current fragmented UN approaches to human rights cooperation and to politicized measures that rend trust and good faith,” remarked Secretary Manalo.
Secretary Manalo underlined that the UNJP “is holistic and synergistic as it is practical, as it bridges the human rights, development, and peace pillars of the UN. It pursues an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach, and demonstrates that with political will, new strategies can work to more meaningfully advance the UN development system.”
The copy of the full statements of the speakers can be accessed through the following links:
- Remarks of Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo
- Remarks of Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin C. Remulla
- Remarks of Undersecretary Severo S. Catura, Executive Director, Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS)
The Program Document of the UN Joint Program can be accessed through this link: (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DC4CMzmytG8bGQ3k3jX79iK2PWCwJtd3/view)