By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
April 3, 2008
The newly-formed People’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch coalition on Thursday lambasted the Arroyo government’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it “lopsided, one-sided and self-serving”.
Amid growing international uproar over its human rights record, the Philippine government undergoes its first UPR on April 11 in Geneva, along with 15 other countries.
The UPR will look into the Philippines’ compliance with UN human rights-related treaties and other international obligations.
In a press and public forum, People’s UPR Watch spokesman Fr. Rex Reyes delivered a scathing critique of the government’s 20-page, 174-point report, saying it is full of omissions.
The government did not admit in the report that not one perpetrator in the 902 extrajudicial killings and 180 enforced disappearances has ever been convicted or punished.
“The most glaring omission”, said Reyes, “is how the government totally ignores the recommendations of UN expert Philip Alston who found the military as perpetrators of the slays and who said the slays were connected with the counterinsurgency Operation Plan Bantay Laya.”
Reyes said that Task Force Usig only serves to discredit Karapatan and those who raise the issue of political killings.
According to Reyes, even in the area of social, economic and cultural rights, the Philippine report “obscured” the reality of rising incidence of poverty among Filipinos and only relied on “doctored” statistics.
Mrs. Edith Burgos, mother of desaparecido Jonas Burgos, said that “going to the UN is the logical next step seeing that we still fail to find our loved ones despite exhausting all democratic processes and venues.”
The younger Burgos, a peasant advocate, was snatched by purported Army soldiers on April 28 last year while eating at a shopping mall in Quezon City.
Reyes said that the Arroyo government even reported to the UN that an “inter-agency technical working group on alleged extrajudicial killings” had supposedly been formed with members from both the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“Of course, there is no such thing,” said Reyes.
Reyes also said that it is untrue that the government undertook a “consultative and participative” in preparing its report.
Reyes said that he was invited to a hastily-called government-sponsored meeting some months back, was not furnished a draft to work on and saw the meeting adjourned after only three hours.
In the same forum, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino meanwhile called on the UN to revoke the Philippines’ inclusion in the UNHRC in view of the human rights situation in the Philippines.
“The government must be reprimanded and sanctioned,” said Casino.
Jonathan Sta. Rosa fought back tears as he called for justice for his slain brother Methodist pastorIsaias Sta. Rosa.
Attending today’s forum were Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Catholic bishops Julio Labayen and Deogracias Iniguez, Protestant bishops Solito Toquero and Gabriel Garol, former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, trade unionists and social activists, families of victims of political killings and abductions, and scores of nuns and seminarians.
Representatives from the French embassy and Asia Foundation also attended the forum. ###
1. ABS-CBNnews.com report
2. Inquirer.net report
3. Copy of the Philippine national report on the UPR
4. Summary of independent UPR reports on the Philippines
5. People’s UPR Watch statement assailing the 44-member government delegation to the UPR