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Samar welcomes Multi-Sectoral Quick Reaction Team (MSQRT)

By EMY BONIFACIO, Samar News.com
August 31, 2010

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  In response to an invitation sent by Dir. Carlos P. Medina of the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC), representatives from multi-sectors coming from Samar gathered at the Flaming Hat Restaurant, Catbalogan last august 27, 2010. A half-day exploratory session with invited stakeholders and Ateneo lawyers, Atty. Khrisna Gomez and Atty. Maria Patricia R. Cervantes, was facilitated by the Social Action Center, Diocese of Calbayog, to discuss the possibility of setting-up of a Multi-Sectoral Quick Reaction Team (MSQRT) in Samar.

Multi-Sectoral Quick Reaction Team (MSQRT) meeting in SamarThe MSQRT, an AHRC project assisted by The Asia Foundation, seeks to address the phenomenon of Extra-Legal Killings (ELKs) and Enforced Disappearances (EDs) in selected areas around the country. A series of seminars organized by the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the Philippine Judicial Academy in partnership with other government organizations are initiated to come up with specific recommendations that would address the problem. A concept paper has been distributed to participants during the meeting.

In the said forum, representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, Academe, Media, Civil Society Organizations, Church, Commission on Human Rights, Department of social Welfare and Development and the Youth Sector are present. During the exploratory meeting, commitments to support the setting up of an MSQRT in Samar were verbally aired by each member in attendance. Moreover, the body expects to expand the invitation to more interested groups for the Focus Group discussion (FGD) that will meet on September 10, 2010 and discuss details as to the scope, structure and procedure of the proposed MSQRT.

Should the Samar MSQRT project be realized, Samarnons will expect for a one-stop-shop of coordinated services that will address the needs of the families of ELK and ED victims. It was stressed, however, that the team will neither focus on criminal justice nor on the creation of a distinct investigative body. It simply intends to build-up the capacity of members to effectively coordinate with stakeholders and effectively reach out to victims. The respective functions of stakeholders will be respected, but a secretariat will be in place to facilitate the services.

Lt.Col. Federico Tutaan, G7 of the 8ID, PA welcomed the project saying that it will be a great help in their fight against insurgency. In the same manner, Col. Gardiola of the PNP feels glad that victims of various killings will be given assistance as well as witnesses will be proviced with a sanctuary. Fiscal Aguilar expressed his apprehension regarding the project because of security concerns for advocates. According to him, most human rights advocates are being killed in pursuance of the truth. He was, however, quoted when he said, “It’s good to do something than not to do anything”. On the other hand, the CHR was thankful that their cause in upholding human rights is now a shared responsibility. Fiscal Daiz suggested on the permanency of member representatives for the continuity of deliberations and the involvement of the heads of agencies in terms of commitments. He stressed that with or without the MSQRT, their office continue prosecuting cases as mandated by law.

The MSQRT project opens a new hope for Samarnons. ‘Darangpan”, an MSQRT center in Northern Samar is now operational and following up cases in the area. Another MSQRT is being maintained in Leyte.