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Gov’t takes lead in crafting nat’l agenda on human rights

Press Release
December 11, 2012

MALACAÑANG  –  The government has set the stage for the crafting of a national agenda on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) with the hosting of a multi-sectoral human rights summit in Malacanang on Tuesday.

The 2nd National Summit on International Humanitarian Law was organized by the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), chaired by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr., to further strengthen the country’s policies in upholding and protecting human rights, particularly during armed conflict.

In a statement read by Deputy Executive Secretary Teofilo S. Pilando Jr. on his behalf, Ochoa said: “We are honored to host this event because it highlights and places great value on strong and productive discourse between government and human rights defenders to identify and collectively resolve critical issues.”

“Moreover, it situates human rights and international humanitarian law within the same breadth as the promotion and protection of our people’s overall welfare and well-being, especially in situations of armed conflict,” he added.

According to Ochoa, the Philippine government’s commitment to the IHL further leapt forward under President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration, citing several key measures and initiatives that it has taken since coming to office.

Among these are the ratification of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court in August 2011 and its adoption months later to boost human rights protection in situations of armed conflict; the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 2011-2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan: Bayanihan; and the issuance of Administrative Order No. 35, which created an inter-agency committee to probe human rights abuses allegedly committed by state and non-state forces.

Other initiatives include the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, and the signing of the terms of reference that rendered operational the government’s Complaints Monitoring Working Group under the Philippine Government Monitoring Committee to further enhance compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Since the first national summit held in August of 2009, the government has likewise put in place Republic Act No. 9851, which defined and penalized war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

“Significant as they are, these developments should encourage all of us to revisit the other commitments we made at the first IHL summit some three years ago. These are commitments that deeply relate to our institutional mandates as government instrumentalities, as an independent national human rights institution, as civil society, and as parties to the armed conflicts in the land,” Ochoa said.

“In the end, these commitments – and the challenges that come with them – will be our measure of readiness to craft a National Agenda on International Humanitarian Law that will fuse and further our efforts.”

Participants in the human rights national summit, the second since August 2009, include representatives from the government, non-government organizations, civil society groups, members of the diplomatic community and other stakeholders.