DFA: UN Human Rights Council adopts UPR report of the Phl

THE Department of Foreign Affairs said the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) dopted, by concensus, on September 20 the report on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines.

Deputy Executive Secretary Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr. from the Office of the Executive, which chairs the Presidential Human Rights Committee, headed the Philippine delegation.

This complete the process that started in May 2012 when the Philippine delegation, headed by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, successfully presented to the HRC Working Group the Philippine report on human rights situation in the country, the DFA said in a statement.

During the May session, the HRC Working Group also adopted by consensus the draft report on the Philippines. This report has now been formally adopted in plenary by the Human Rights Council.

During the adoption, Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando highlighted measures taken or are being taken by the Philippines under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III to fulfil its commitment to implement recommendations from member states. He informed the Human Rights Council that the Philippines accepted 62 out of the 88 recommendations from states.

He added that the 25 other recommendations that mainly pertain to treaties and conventions are being further studied in view of ongoing legislative and judicial processes related to the recommendations.  He added that consultations with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other stakeholders are also ongoing.

Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando explained that “(this is) in deference to our system of government that gives credence to the independence and integrity of our legislature and judiciary, the two other separate but co-equal branches of the Philippine government which, under a liberal democracy, work together and decide on important policies and programs of government.”

He added, “it is (also) to ensure that the level of commitment we have as soon as pen touches paper becomes whole and unconditional, especially in harmonizing the substance and spirit of these treaties and conventions with our domestic laws and legal mechanisms, thus ensuring effective implementation.”

Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando commented that the NGO and civil society participation in the UPR monitoring process is a testament to the “the current vibrancy permeating our civil society sector that fully allows the exercise of freedom of thought, speech, and advocacy, and the realization of the objectives of collective governance.”

On the issue of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance, Secretary Pilando emphasized that the Philippines had created a multisectoral national monitoring mechanism that will look into the progress of cases involving extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, and torture.  He said ” this mechanism will be chaired by the Commission on Human Rights, with government agencies and CSOs and NGOs as members. It shall ensure the resolution of such cases by stressing institutional accountabilities.”

“The Philippine government expects that this mechanism shall encourage human rights defenders to boost their policy of engagement with the State under this mechanism, or reconsider their position of non-engagement as the case may be, especially so that this will greatly assist in case build-up,” he said.

He stressed the strong resolve of Philipine government to promote accountability through measures that will end extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.

“My government is committed to investigate all cases that have allegedly occurred under the current administration, and for validated cases, to bring those responsible to justice. We will also revisit and continue to investigate the other cases that happened during the past regime, and, when validated, prosecute them,” Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando said.

On the labor front, Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando reported to the Human Rights Council that the Philippines has recently ratified two key international conventions, the Maritime Labor Convention and the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. These conventions set the universal standard of protection of human rights of seafarers and domestic workers.

He also reported that the Batas Kasambahay (Domestic Workers Bill), the enabling law for ILO Convention 189, is now for consideration by the Bilateral Committee of Congress prior to enactment into law.

The Kasambahay Bill recognizes the special vulnerability of household workers to various kinds of abuse and requires a written contract to govern the employer-employee relationship. It mandates a realistic minimum wage, prevents bonded labor, physical, sexual, mental and economic abuse of household workers and provides for social security benefits.

On social and economic rights, Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando noted that Philippines would continue to respect and defend these rights as basic human rights. He stressed that Philippine government views these rights as affirmative obligations on the country’s development plan of action that highlights anti-corruption and good governance.

He said, “as a developing nation, we can not do less than to attend to our peoples’ need for adequate food, shelter, education, health services, employment, water, electricity, among others.”

“In pursuit of this developmental state framework, human rights-based approach (HRBA) in development planning in the bureaucracy is being mainstreamed.” Deputy Executive Secretary Pilando emphasized.

The UPR is a peer review of the human rights records of member countries of the United Nations. It operates on the basis of the principle that no country is perfect and that all member states of the UN must have their human rights records examined by the Human Rights Council in the spirit of genuine dialogue and cooperation.

During the UPR review, UN member countries examine and comment on the report of the countries under review, taking into account separate independent reports by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and by NGOs. They then submit recommendations with the aim of improving the promotion and protection of human rights in the country concerned. The country concerned may accept or reject these recommendations based on its own appreciation of the domestic situation under the principles that states are primarily responsible for human rights within their national jurisdiction.

The Philippines was among the pioneer countries that were first subjected to peer review in 2008. The present review is the second for the Philippines. The Philippines will again be reviewed in 2016.
All statements made during the adoption of the Philippine UPR report are webcasted and may be viewed or accessed though the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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