UN Human Rights Committee Review Revealed “Several Areas of Deficit” in the Philippine Human Rights Records

Geneva 15 – 16 October 2012. The United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded the examination of the fourth periodic report of the Philippines on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This review took place on 15 and 16 October 2012 in Geneva and was attended by a dozen Civil Society Organisations (CSO) from the Philippines that submitted several reports.

On October 16, the Chair of the Human Rights Committee, Zonke Majodina, concluded the dialogue on the state of human rights in the Philippines. She referred to positive developments that took place since the previous examination in 2003, including the recent adoption of the Framework Agreement between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the 2009 anti-torture act.

The Human Rights Committee remained concerned about many difficulties faced by the State. The Chair noted “several areas of deficit” in the implementation of the ICCPR. She expressed the need for clarification on the status of the ICCPR in domestic law, whether it was regarded as binding or only persuasive authority, and she expressed concern about the absence of existing measures to implement the Committee’s views under its individual communications procedure.

The Committee noted the continuing occurrence of extra-judicial killings and the high rate of enforced disappearances; the poor results of investigations and the lack of prosecution, including the slow progress in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre. The Committee is concerned about the role of the private armed and the military auxiliary groups as well as the high number of loose weapons in circulation in the country.

In addition, the Committee is alarmed by the problem of overcrowding in prisons in Philippines, a matter that was already raised by the Committee during the last review, but which has not been addressed to-date. With regard to torture, the Government did not provide any statistics to substantiate its claim that torture is not prevalent.

With regard to women’s rights, the Chairperson said the Committee is deeply concerned about the “sharia laws and their impact on women”. The Committee was also alarmed that reproductive rights are still not guaranteed, that access to contraception is highly restricted, and that abortion without exception is criminalized. According to the State Delegation, the maternal mortality ratio has increased by a quarter from 2006 and 2010.

The Committee welcomed the landmark Ang Ladlad ruling of the Supreme Court that allowed an LGBT party to participate in the election but stressed that more needs to be done due to the continuing absence of anti-discrimination legislation, presence of a vague public scandal law, and anti-LGBT prejudice by military and election officials. The State delegation responded by noting persistent,“prejudices against LGBTs."

The Human Rights Committee will make its recommendations public at the end of its session, on 1st November 2012.

Background information:

The archived webcast of the Philippines review can be seen at treatybodywebcast.org.

Contacts in Philippines:
Rose Trajano – PAHRA – pahra@philippinehumanrights.org
Ricardo Sunga – TFDP - tfdp1974@gmail.com
Ging Cristobal – IGLHRC – gcristobal@iglhrc.org
Jonas Bagas – TLF Share – jonasbagas@gmail.com
Marie Hilao-Enriquez – KARAPATAN – karapatan.pid2@gmail.com

Contacts in Geneva:
Seynabou Benga – OMCT- sb@omct.org
Stuart Halford - Center for Reproductive Rights & SRI - stuart.geneva@sri-crr.org
Asger Kjaerum – IRCT – akj@irct.org
Patrick Mutzenberg – CCPR-Centre – pmutzenberg@ccprcentre.org