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THE BIRTH OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS – PILIPINAS (HRD – Plipinas)
Volume 23 Number 1
Thursday, 12 January 2012 10:43

by Jonal Javier

The Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) initiated the organizing of the human rights defenders (HRDs) nationwide, which was later launched as a formal organization named Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas (HRD – Pilipinas). The launching was held last December 2, 2009 at the De La Salle – College of St. Benilde (DLS-CSB).

The formal formation and launching happened on the last day of the three-day human rights defenders conference. The first two days of the conference were devoted to the meeting of 36 HRDs coming from various mining areas nationwide, namely, Kasibu and Quezon in Nueva Vizcaya, Luzon; Homonhon and Manicani in Eastern Samar, Visayas; and Sibutad and Rizal in Zamboanga Del Norte, Mindanao.

A cultural presentation depicting the situation and the culture of the people in the mining areas served as the conference’s opening ceremony. The student volunteers of the Center for Social Action (CSA) of DLS-CSB and Youth for Rights (Y4R) members performed the dance play.

Inputs were provided to the conference delegates on the first day.  Mr. Romel De Vera of the Legal Resource Center (LRC-KsK) talked about the mining situation in the country.  Mr. Max De Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) discussed the human rights underpinnings in the mining areas.  Ms. Kit Melgar from the office of Akbayan Party-list Rep. Walden Bello explained the alternative mining bill.

An open forum followed after each input from the resource speaker.  The participants were able to clarify the relationship of the mining operations in the 23 mining sites in the country as a major program of the Arroyo government. According to Mr. De Vera, the mining industry in the Philippines is one of the main targets of the government as a source of its revenue. He also pointed out the collusion of the mining investors and the government to manipulate the process in accessing the mining permits and the subsequent displacement of the people in the areas.

“The main vehicle of the mining corporation to be able to get the sentiments and acceptance of some members of the communities is their social corporate responsibility program. It is made to appear that they are the alternative to the social services of the government, e.g. scholarships, roads and school building,” De Vera further explained. He reiterated that it is the government’s obligation to fulfill the rights of the citizens, not the corporations.

Mr. De Mesa discussed the particular human rights being affected or violated because of the existence of the mineral extraction project in the areas. He discussed how the right to self determination, right to food, right to housing and right to subsistence of the people are continuously being violated in the mining areas. He also mentioned that the people must not be deceived by the corporate social responsibility program of the mining corporations for it is the government’s responsibility to provide such.

 

When asked if there are possible alternatives, Mr. De Mesa clarified that he is not against the existence of the government or the establishment, but with this kind of governance that is not fulfilling the rights of the people and instead violating them.

Ms. Melgar, on the other hand, discussed the main features of the alternative bill for mining (AMB). She presented the difference of the existing bill and the AMB and how the latter will protect the rights of the people including the Indigenous People.

After the input, the participants agreed that Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 must be repealed to be able to fully defend the right of the citizens in the mining areas.

The second day of the mining conference was spent on workshops to discuss efforts on how to stop the mining operations in the chosen focus areas in the country. The participants were divided according to the islands where they are from. They came up with their respective island plans and a national coordinated plan.

They considered the coming elections in their anti-mining plans, deciding to field anti- mining candidates in their localities and to scout for other candidates who are against mining.  Gina Patalinghug, one of the conference participants and a Sangguniang Bayan member, said that she is running for Vice Mayor in Sibonga, Cebu to ensure that the municipality will be a no mining zone.

On the third day of the conference, 24 more human rights defenders joined the 36 participants from the mining areas for the formal consolidation and organization of the Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas.

Sr. Crescencia Lucero, SFIC, TFDP Deputy Executive Director provided the rationale of the gathering.  Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila de Lima was represented by Atty. Jessica Schuck who gave a human rights situationer.

Miss Oya Arriola of the British Embassy also attended the conference as guest.

The conference delegates deliberated on their vision, mission and strategy (VMS), and structure and membership.

In summary, the HRD-Pilipinas’ VMS:

Vision: Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas envisions the attainment of a Filipino society with an improved quality of life indexed on the realization of basic economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of its people.

Mission: Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas shall work for the extension of sustained and continuous human rights services ranging from human rights education, resource generation and mobilization for human rights work and defense and capacity building and empowerment of human rights defenders cutting across vulnerable sectors regardless of status, persuasion or creed.

Strategy: Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas shall conduct organizing work among vulnerable sectors (marginal, women, youth, indigenous peoples, human rights advocates) as well as sectors that could contribute to Human Rights promotion, advocacy and defense (academe, legal profession, church, NGOs, entrepreneurs, media, youth) with the end of harnessing capacities of human rights defenders towards a programmatic and coherent action in achieving and realizing human rights.

The group also decided to accept an individual and group membership, with the condition that the group or organizational membership will be limited to locally-based organizations only.

Finally, the group selected their representatives to the National Coordinating Council (NCC), the second highest policy making body of the organization. The NCC is composed of:

Sr. Gerolinda Tingson, OSA                            Negros

Thomas Lyndon Blanco                         Eastern Visayas

Anabelle dela Cerna                             Central Visayas

Rene Dadulla                                       Homonhon/Manicani/Guiuan

Pedro Anacio                                       Vizcaya-Quirino

Ma. Isabel Mendoza                              NCR

Nilo Tabudlong                                    Western Mindanao

Adona G. Orquillas                               Central Mindanao

Lope B. Culanag                                   Sibutad/ Rizal Zamboanga del Norte

Datu Winefredo Sumael                        Northern Mindanao/Caraga

Rapha-El Olegario                                Youth Sector

Two representatives[1] Northern and Southern Luzon

The HRD-Pilipinas NCC will meet in February 2010 to finalize the one year plan, which will include the convening of the first assembly.



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