MANILA — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, leads a high-level Philippine delegation to Geneva, Switzerland this weekend to attend the Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on May 29. The UPR is a mechanism of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to check compliance by UN member states with their human rights obligations.
The first cycle of the UPR was conducted in 2008 when de Lima, a human rights advocate herself, chaired the Commission on Human Rights during the Arroyo administration.
Among the concerns that the Philippine delegation will address are alleged extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the enhancement of the domestic, legal and institution capacities on these issues remains one of the government’s priorities. It said that the Philippines continues to undertake concrete measures in addressing these issues, such as coordination between the State’s investigative, procecutorial, and security agencies with civil society organizations.
The Philippine delegation will also highlight the strong human rights platform in addition to the supposed progress and achievements of the Aquino administration on this issue.
“President Benigno Aquino III has firmly committed [himself] to the promotion and protection of human rights as a pillar of his administration, while respecting the rule of law, justice and due process, and with continuing engagement of civil society and all stakeholders,” the DFA said.
“The Supreme Court has also instructed all lower courts to prioritize the resolution of pending cases of human rights violations,” it added.
Moreover, it said the Philippine government’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review “highlights its commitment to further strengthening the protection and promotion of human rights, most especially for the vulnerable sectors of society.”
Meanwhile, according to a news report of Bulatlat.com, “Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said while it is true there has been a reduction in the number of cases, she noted that the decrease occurred before the Aquino administration took over and was a “result of both domestic and international pressure to stop the killings.” It went on to quote Pearson as having said that “killings and enforced disappearances have not stopped completely,” and that “four years later, we see exactly the same situation.”
(See related story: UN Human Rights Council Reviews PHL Record On Human Rights Anew.)