Human Rights Forum and Book Launch Stress
Importance of Rule of Law, Individual Liberty
|FNF Resident Representative
Siegfried Herzog praised the forum as a timely reminder that
the challenges of human rights protection cut across borders.
Extra tables had to be brought in to accommodate the huge interest
in the annual Kapihan
(coffee forum) on the Human Rights
Situation organized by the Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) and
Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism
the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) on 15 December
2006 in Quezon City.
To do justice to the multiple dimensions of the issue, speakers
were invited from civil society, the legislature and the executive,
allowing a nuanced picture to emerge.
KARAPATAN, a militant human rights alliance, sounded a note of
alarm with a report that 2006 saw a sharp rise in the killings
of journalists and political activists. KARAPATAN Secretary-General
Marie Hilao-Enriquez said “2006 is the worst year for human rights.”
She admonished the government for “extra-judicial and politically
General Razon from the Philippine National Police (PNP) asserted
that the government was responding seriously
to bring the violence under control and root out the culprits.
He took issue with KARAPATAN’s figures, arguing that many killings
in their list had no political background and of those that did,
the NPA was responsible for a substantial share – a view disputed
by other speakers.
Paulynn Sicam, PWG member and member of the Government
, pointed out that, ironically, the peace process
has victimized Human Rights, as the debate about human rights
violations have become a numbers game
. ”The peace negotiations
[with the communist guerilla] cannot continue until these human
rights issues are resolved,” she said. However, she also questioned
KARAPATAN’s report of a high number of killings, citing lack of
transparency. Sicam presented the peace panel’s own separate data
that supported a more nuanced picture.
For the legislature, former Governor Gallardo, chief of staff
of Senator Drilon, highlighted the relevance of the Anti-Terrorism
Bill advocated by the government. The Senate was presently scrutinizing
the bill due to the risk it could poses for civil liberties.
Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales struck a conciliatory note, acknowledging
the seriousness of the concern about the killings and the perceived
culture of impunity while pointing out that the killings could
not all be blamed on the central government. She also stressed
that there was a need for cooperation with the police and the
military to resolve these issues. The development of a modicum
of mutual trust was needed, and she gave a strong endorsement
of efforts of building such trust.
|AHRC Executive Director Carlos
Medina Jr and FNF Resident Representative Siegfried Herzog
congratulate first prize winner Johann Carlos S. Barcena.
Despite the disagreement on the exact number of killings, Commission
on Human Rights
Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing said that
there was a human rights crisis as there was “a perception of the
absence of the rule of law
.” The problem was not
in the laws, but in the implementation.
The somber but constructive tone of the Kapihan ended on a positive
note with the book launching of Beyond
Borders. The book is a compilation of 15 winning entries
of an AHRC and FNF essay-writing contest on the question: “Does
the universality of human rights require a particular type of
democracy?” “Laws do not exist in a vacuum. Human rights and democracy
are intertwined and mutually reinforcing,” quoted first prize
winner Johann Carlos S. Barcena from his essay. “The Philippines
[essentially] has a liberal democracy, with lots of institutions
and laws in place to protect human rights. It is worth enforcing
these,” he added. “However, it should not be left to the government
alone. All sectors of society should do their part [to make sure
human rights are upheld].
FNF Resident Representative Siegfried Herzog praised the forum
as a timely reminder that the challenges of human rights
protection cut across borders, as each society grapples
with the need to balance the demand for security
with the rights upholding individual liberty.
If you wish to receive a free copy of Beyond Borders: Does
the Universality of Human Rights Require a Particular Type of
Democracy, please send us an e-mail
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