of Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the
Philippines (EcuVoice) with Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special
Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.
UN rights heads to visit PH
PH human rights
group discussed concerns with UN special rapporteurs
June 12, 2014
GENEVA, Switzerland –
Human rights advocates of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human
Rights (EcuVoice), who are participating in the 26th United Nations
Human Rights Council sessions, welcomed the information conveyed by
two United Nations special rapporteurs on their official visits to the
Philippines to conduct independent investigations on the human rights
situation in the country.
UN Special Rapporteur on the
human rights of internally displaced persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani is
slated to conduct his official visit this year, while UN Special
Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul
has recently submitted her request to visit the country.
In a meeting with the UN
mandate holders in Geneva, Switzerland, members of the EcuVoice
delegation enjoined the independent experts to look into reports of
forced evacuations due to military operations, forced evictions, the
continuing displacement of typhoon Haiyan victims, and the attacks
against human rights lawyers in the Philippines.
Representatives of EcuVoice
apprised Dr. Beyani of the forcible evacuations caused by intensified
military operations in a growing number of areas in the country,
especially in Mindanao, where 60% of Armed Forces of the Philippines
personnel are currently deployed.
"Peasant communities and
indigenous tribes are driven away from their homes by extractive
operations, tourism, and infrastructure projects such as dams. The
plight of poverty-stricken indigenous communities in Talaingod, Davao
del Norte and many other parts of Mindanao is exacerbated as big
foreign and domestic mining companies encroach on their lands and
ancestral domains," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay
explained to Mr. Beyani.
Typhoon survivor Rev. Irma
Balaba said that "more than six months after super typhoon Haiyan
(Yolanda) struck the Philippines, the survivors continue to languish
in appalling conditions with scarce, if any, access to shelter,
potable water, basic services, and sustainable livelihood, despite the
outpouring of support from the international community."
Atty. Edre Olalia, secretary
general of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), provided
updates for Knaul on the escalating tactics employed to jeopardize,
not just the independence of lawyers and judges, but their very lives
and personal security, particularly human rights lawyers. He pointed
out the continuing killings of lawyers and judges as well as various
attacks like labelling, surveillance, hacking of phones and emails,
and filing of nuisance charges against rights lawyers.
The present case of NUPL
officer Cathy Salucon was highlighted considering the specific and
imminent threat against her. "The human rights lawyers in the
frontline are also under attack and immediate steps must be taken by
the international community on top of domestic efforts before things
even get worse," Olalia pleaded with Knaul.
A UN mandate holder like
Special Rapporteurs can only conduct a country visit upon formal
invitation by the State on an official request. The Philippine
government previously announced during the country's Universal
Periodic Review in 2012 that it will officially invite Beyani, but the
official visit has not materialized since then. The former special
rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and judges first
requested to visit the Philippines in 2006, and has since reiterated
this request. The Philippine government, however, has not issued an
Aside from Palabay and
Olalia, the EcuVoice delegation includes Rev. Irma Balaba, assistant
programme secretary of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations
programme of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; and
Dr. Angie Gonzales, Atty. Mary Kristerie Baleva and Julie Palaganas of
the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.