OFW group criticizes ‘hasty and toothless’ ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

GLOBAL alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today criticized the recent signing by Southeast Asian leaders of a controversial human rights declaration.

Last Sunday, the 10-member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, signed a region-wide Human Rights Declaration, calling it a “landmark moment”.

But according to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general, the hastiness and sketchiness and lack of consultation of the process prior to the signing makes the Declaration “insufficient and toothless”.

“We feel that ASEAN nations wasted the opportunity to come up with a strong Declaration that will be at par with existing international standards and that will compel governments to enact national laws for the protection of human rights,” Esguerra said.

She echoed sentiments of critics against the process behind the drafting of the Declaration. “Consultations with NGOs and people’s organizations were very limited, if not inaccessible. Even the draft declaration circulated was questionable and most of the information we got were hearsay and not official.”

Esguerra said that to come up with a strong Declaration, the ASEAN should have taken into main consideration the human rights record of ASEAN governments, the Philippines’ in particular.

“How can any Human Rights Declaration signed by President Aquino be credible given his government’s record of human rights violations? His government refuses to acknowledge the existence of political prisoners. Extra-judicial killings remain rampant. And political repression and harassment continue,” she said.

Esguerra lamented that if the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will be the basis of the ratification of an ASEAN Draft Instrument for the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers and their families, “it will be found lacking.”

“In his speech before the ASEAN in Cambodia, Aquino once again paid lip service to the implementation of a regional instrument for migrant workers and against trafficking in persons, but the government’s track record in combating violations on the rights of OFWs is as miserable as its human rights record.”

She said that the Philippine government’s neglect and disregard of the rights of OFWs will be put on trial at the International Migrants’ Tribunal which will be held in Manila on November 28-29.

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