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Chairperson's Report
Volume 22 Number 4
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:15

Delivered by
Sr. Ma. Luz Mijares, ASOLC, TFDP Co-Chairperson
during TFDP’s 15th National Convention
held on November 20 – 21, 2008
at the Tahanang Sta. Monica in Tagaytay City

We started our journey three years ago in the rainy days of September, made even colder by the cool climate of Tagaytay.

Our passion for human rights and our passion for humanity warmed each other’s hearts and our fervor and dedication fired up the road ahead. Three years have passed and we are again together in the cool climate of Tagaytay. To look back and draw lessons from the past. To look ahead at the challenges and obstacles that await us.

Together let us look back at our exciting yet perilous journey.

We set major thrusts and stresses for 2006 – 2008. It also marked the return of Sr. Cres Lucero to the helm of TFDP operations.

Let me just run through these thrust and stresses

THRUSTS AND STRESSES

TFDP Goals (2006-2008)

Goal 1: Justice sought for political prisoners and other victims of HR violations in defense of their rights.

Goal 2: Civil and political rights and the rights to food, housing and not to be deprived of the means of subsistence are respected, defended, and progressively realized.

For 2006-2008, we continued three projects, with some modifications, to achieve the two goals mentioned.

Part I: Programs and Services

Project 1 – Assistance to political prisoners and other human rights violations victims (OHRVVs)

Project 2 – Implement Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to break impunity, focusing on outlawing torture and breakthrough on justiciability on three rights

Project 3 – Empowerment of peoples to engage both state and non-state actors for the fulfillment of the three rights

Proposed components: study and research, publication, education and training on HR

Part II: Organizational Development

Project 1 - Strengthening and consolidation of membership

Project 2 – Establishment of broad based financial and non-financial resources

Project 3 – Upgrading and enhancement of the capacity and competence of TFDP staff


And what have we done in our time at TFDP? What have we accomplished for God and His/Her people?

Let me just cite the salient points as a detailed report can be availed from the National Center.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Project 1 – Assistance to Political Prisoners (PPs) and OHRVVs

Three hundred twenty four (324) political prisoners were released from 2006-2008. Among the reasons for their release are: bail, acquittal, provisional dismissal, dismissal, pardon, served sentence, parole or self-release.

TFDP assisted in procuring documents and court records, securing witnesses, conferring with lawyers, and convening case conferences, among others.

While a significant number were released over three years, none of the political prisoners and detainees (PPs/PDs) was released through executive action.

In terms of continuing PPs/PDs awareness of social issues and human rights, eighty five percent (85%) of them were given studies on gender and human rights as well as national situationers. This was done to keep PPs/PDs abreast of the Philippine situation. Their families and relatives were also given trainings and education to deepen their understanding of the plight of their loved ones as well as to inculcate in them a sense of commitment and dedication to human rights and peace.

Support groups were also formed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for the PPs/PDs with a total of four hundred eighty nine (489) mobilized and given various forms of trainings. An additional one thousand (1000) were tapped for street mobilizations, pickets and lobbying for the release of PPs/PDs.

Within three years, TFDP was able to provide assistance to more than 300 cases of political prisoners by referring them to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) lawyers and lobbying for their specific needs to various agencies such as Board of Pardon and Parole (BPP), Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon (PCBREP).

While we targeted documentation of 100% of heard cases, we were sometimes faced with a wall of resistance from PDs who asserted that they are already served by other human rights groups.

In terms of public awareness of the PPs/PDs’ plight, more than 50 urgent appeals, letters, press statements, and press releases were made to drum up support.

In terms of justiciability, we filed ten (10) prosecution cases against perpetrators of human rights violations but none have been successfully prosecuted to date.

Food aid was also distributed to the PPs/PDs every quarter although we need to look into the meager amount we give them (200 pesos per month) and generate more financial and logistical support for them.

OHRVVs

Three hundred eleven cases (311) of OHRVVs were documented affecting
6,203 victims (5,819 were victims of demolitions and 384 were victims of torture, disappearances, extra judicial killings, etc).

Their cases were referred to Medical Action Group (MAG), Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), Balay Rehabilitation Center, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and other concerned groups for other forms of assistance.

Every documented case was given paralegal assistance.

Our educational assistance benefited 26 scholars.

Project 2 – Implement Article 2 of ICCPR to break impunity focusing on outlawing torture and breakthrough on justiciability on three rights

Our second project concentrated on building up awareness on torture, generation support among the local government units (LGUs) and grassroots against torture and lobbying the legislative to pass a bill against torture.

What have we done in this arena for the past three years?

Since 2006, we have concentrated our efforts in lobbying the House of Representatives and the Senate to enact an anti-torture law. It has now reached second reading at the committee level of both houses. We now need to press them further to release the committee reports for plenary deliberations. We are guardedly optimistic that the bill will pass both Houses of Congress.

In 2006, around nine thousand three hundred sixty six (9,366) government officials, students and members of peoples organizations (4,678 female/ 4,688 male) became aware of torture, the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) through fora and focused group discussions.

In 2007 and 2008, thousands of people became aware on torture through the various campaigns such as video ads, billboards, bus wrap, and street mobilizations.

TFDP also conducted lobby not only on the anti-torture bill but on the ratification of the OPCAT. Among the activities conducted were the following:

•    conducted more than 10 roundtable discussions and meetings with members of Congress;

•    conducted series of campaign activities such as: video ad against torture, billboards, tarpaulins, photo exhibits, bus wrap, run against torture, etc.;

•    thousands of people became aware on human rights and torture as a form of human rights violation;

•    conducted separate lobby with the Senate for the ratification of OPCAT; meetings and coordination with diplomatic corps, NGOs and government agencies were held for the lobbying of OPCAT.

As a result of the determined lobby of the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC) of which TFDP is a member, there is now a consolidated anti-torture bill in Congress to be discussed during the plenary.

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo already signed the OPCAT and endorsed it to the Senate for concurrence. Unfortunately, it seems the executive has had a change of heart as Sec. Ermita has said they will seek a deferment of its ratification.
Project 3 – Empowerment of peoples to engage both state and non-state actors for the fulfillment of the three rights   

Our Rights-Based Approach (RBA) to development and governance has reached more than four hundred (400) local government officials.

We have people’s organizations and local government units who have issued resolutions and statements against mining which is destructive of the environment.

More than six thousand (6,000) were reached by our education and training activities for the three rights. We now have focus areas in Manicani, Homonhon, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Murcielagos Bay straddling the provinces of Zamboanga Del Norte and Misamis Occidental.

Eight hundred nine (809) leaders of people’s organizations and officials of local government units were given orientation on the three rights and rights based approach to development and governance. As a result of the trainings and workshops, local government units agree to use RBA in drafting plans and programs

IMPACT STATEMENTS:

PROJECT I – ASSISTING THE POLITICAL PRISONERS AND OTHER VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS TO ASSERT THEIR RIGHTS AND FREEDOM

In an effort to reduce the length of detention and provide immediate relief, TFDP has been able to facilitate the release of 324 long-held and short-held political detainees/prisoners during the period.   All of them have been ensured with lawyers and welfare assistance while those tortured are resorted to urgent actions and special attention.

The 246 number of political prisoners at the beginning of the project period in 2006 was reduced.  The current number of PPs and PDS is 217 as of November 15, 2008.

With emphasis on grave cases of human rights violations: extra-judicial execution, enforced disappearance, torture, surviving victims have been brought to “sanctuaries” to secure and/or assisted in seeking justice. Various cases have been brought to the attention of the UN and US state department and international NGOs for intervention.     

PROJECT II - BREAKING IMPUNITY AND SEEKING JUSTICE

In addressing the phenomenon of torture, the legislative and executive branches of the government have been engaged in the enactment of an anti-torture law and the ratification of OPCAT. Conscientization and popularization of its impact on individual and society has been simultaneously carried out through various media production and focus group discussions among vulnerable sectors.

Out of the nine (9) cases considered for seeking justice, only three (3) cases (Japalali, Asucena and Aligato) have been sustained. TFDP has been able to engage the help of the CHR, Department of Justice (DOJ),  and various alternative lawyers group in the processing and litigation of the cases.    

Submitted more than 100 cases of human rights violations to Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions (EJEs) and enforced disappearance. This has helped in forcing the government to address such cases and for the Supreme Court to introduce mechanisms for justice (Writ of Habeas Data, Writ of Amparo, justice on wheels and special human rights courts)

PROJECT III: EMPOWERING PEOPLE IN THE FULFILLMENT OF THEIR RIGHTS

TFDP is instrumental in the formation of Task Force Murcielagos (Mindanao) and HERO and SAMAMO (Visayas). TFDP is also part of Task Force Nueva Vizcaya (Luzon) which addresses the mining issues that impact on the rights to food and means of subsistence of the affected communities. A unified anti-mining ordinance enacted by (9) contiguous barangays to bar the entry of mining at Murcielagos Bay is now being deliberated at the municipal level for implementation, and another three barangay resolutions were passed at the focus area in Nueva Vizcaya. The active involvement of TFDP in the anti-mining coalitions (DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues in Mindanao, Diocesan Campaign against Mining in Visayas, Alyansa Tigil Mina in Luzon) has popularized human rights and the documentation instruments (templates designed by TFDP) in the anti-mining advocacy.

TFDP has sustained its active membership to the peace coalitions in Mindanaw, namely: Mindanaw Peoples' Caucus (MPC) and Mindanaw Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM) through various consultations on the peace talks and fact-finding missions attended.  TFDP is also a member of Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform an Ecumenical Group of Church Leaders for Peace Talks between GRP and NDF.

For the period, 2,031 have been given human rights, paralegal and documentation trainings, and peace orientation. And there have been 8,180 leaders and members of organizations and communities who received orientation and training on the rights-based approach to development. In Mindanao, more than 500 members of interfaith communities in Zamboanga del Sur have become local HR monitors as a result of the trainings given. TFDP has also maintained its membership to the interfaith formation in Pagadian City and Municipality of Dumingag represented by our BOT members.

Among those who benefited from the TFDP popularization of the RBA to Development in focus areas are about 1,500 individuals from various indigenous peoples groups and agrarian reform beneficiaries and more than 500 LGU officials in Bukidnon. As a result, Coalition of Actual Tillers, Claimants and Holders of Agrarian Reform Areas and Ancestral Domain (CATCH-ARAD) has been organized among indigenous people’s organizations (IPOs) and agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organizations (ARBOs).  CATCH-ARAD is presently in the process of consolidating its member organizations and seeking accreditation with government quasi-bodies for future engagements. In response, various LGUs have been drawn to support the IPs and ARBs in the struggle for their right to land and means of subsistence.

In Luzon, 1,241 IPs and NGOs, and more than 1,600 members of HERO and SAMAMO from the islands of Homonhon and Manicani in Eastern Visayas have also benefited from RBA framed training and education.  As a result of this, 51 human rights defenders have been formed in the focus area of Luzon and in Visayas, three human rights defenders (HRD) groups have been formed.

TFDP CONTRIBUTIONS TO:

Peace and Human Rights Movement

The engagement of TFDP with the various peaceful mass mobilizations (street protest, caravan, lecture series, HR and peace orientations, consultations on peace processes, engagement on legal processes in seeking justice, fact-finding and relief missions)   throughout the country in search for truth and justice clearly demonstrates its dedication to peace and human rights.

Church Mission

The active involvement of TFDP in the activities of its fellow mission partners and the conscious effort to engage local Church formations in its human rights work have  reaffirmed its nature and  important mission to draw out church people to human rights work alongside work for peace. Through TFDP, various congregations set up sanctuaries for victims of human rights and acquired skills in strengthening their human rights desk (Social Action Center (SAC) of Marbel and Iligan).

Social Justice


In facilitating services to the IPs, ARBs, urban poor, small farmers and fisherfolks under the threat of development aggression (especially mining and agro-industrial development), and Bangsa Moro people over the anti-terror drive of the government, we continue to demonstrate  our commitment to eradicate injustices and inequality.          

National and International Solidarity Network

TFDP played an important role in the series of consultations in the country on the establishment of the ASEAN HR mechanism. We have maintained our membership to Forum Asia, Philippine Coalition on International Criminal Court (PCICC), United Against Torture Coalition, Philippine Working Group on ASEAN Mechanism, Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, and Ecumenical Group of Church Leaders for the promotion of peace talks between the Government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF). We have also sustained our linkages with Amnesty International (AI), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), Action des chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture (ACAT), Franciscan International, Geneva Forum, International Services for Human Rights (ISHR), Frontline HR Defenders, Conectasur, Solidarity of Asean for Peoples Advocacy, and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for urgent actions and participation in the national and international consultations and conferences on HR issues. We have also sent a representation to the UN for Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and contributed data in the ESCR shadow report to the UN.

Organizational and Institutional Strengthening

TFDP has been able to improve its documentation system and capacitate its staff on the skills needed to improve their performance and outputs. TFDP also has participated in several trainings and conferences locally and abroad.

Participation to the VI International Human Rights Colloquium in Sao Paolo enabled TFDP to get networks with Conectasur, Democracy Coalition Project, Civicus, and the Global Fund for Human Rights. The Democracy Coalition Project has likewise included us as a signatory in the letters they have sent to the UNHRC.   

The office is also refurbished to host a museum and a library digitally linked to various universities in the country. Office equipment are also upgraded.

TFDP membership during the 2003-2004 period had been 313.  During the 2005 National Convention, the members were down to 104.  The reason for this decline in number was because in 2005, TFDP conducted an assessment of the membership and categorized them into active and inactive members.  The process was followed by renewal of membership.  Only those who renewed have been considered members which brought down the number in considerable low.  TFDP then started recruiting new members. Since 2006 membership rebuilding which happen to turn over active staff and non-staff members. Currently the membership has reached 195 – in Mindanaw, 45, in Visayas, 66 and 84 in Luzon. Noteworthy new TFDP members include prominent HR lawyers and Church leaders.

Formation of Civil Society

TFDP maintains its membership with the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), United Against Torture Coalition (UATC), MPPM, MPC, DCMI, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Coalition on International Criminal Court (PCICC), and coordinate with academic institutions such as the University of the Philippines, La Salle University, and Ateneo University.

THE ROAD AHEAD

The road ahead will be difficult. The journey may well be perilous. And why do I say this?

In 2010, presidential elections shall be held. This can very well be a watershed for our Republic. Even now, plots to postpone the elections and extend terms are being planned and are in the works. Violence related to politics will rise by next year as all groups and individuals gear for a showdown in 2010.

The festering insurgency of the CPP-NPA-NDF and other armed left groups and the Moro rebellion impacts heavily on human rights and peace. Human Rights Defenders will be increasingly at risk as they defend and promote issues of the peoples such as agrarian reform, indigenous people’s rights, urban poor rights, trade union issues, etc.

Whether an economic slowdown or a recession, the economic crisis will surely lead to fewer jobs, shorter working hours, retrenchments, business closures, and the like. It will also lead to mass protests against loss of jobs, job security, rising prices of goods and services, etc.

Our fellow Filipinos will grab the opportunity to find better jobs abroad and the diaspora of OFWs will continue in the years to come.

And while we face a crisis, we continue to be assaulted by corruption – the fertilizer scam that finds no closure even with the return of Joc-Joc Bolante or of the “euro-generals” who cannot explain their hidden travel allowance. This is unmitigated greed having untrammeled access to the nation’s coffers.

The environment will continue to suffer from destructive economic activities encroaching on ancestral domains and indigenous peoples lives.

What are we to do?

Perhaps TFDP can seriously look into monitoring and documentation of electoral violence before, during and after elections. Violence has been used to eliminate political rivals, to intimidate voters and to derail the peoples will. It is high time that we not only involve ourselves in political education but in the process to make the elections fair, honest and free.
Perhaps TFDP can intensify its efforts at human rights and peace education. We now have a very volatile situation with the collapse of the peace talks in Mindanao. War and violence continue and innocent lives are caught in the crossfire. Peace building, dialogue, redress of grievances and resolving age-old conflicts can be an arena for us.

Perhaps we can delve into government performance in order to fulfill our claim to good governance. We can never enjoy our right to development and peace with a corrupt and inutile government.

In closing, may I paraphrase a song from yesteryears - You and I have traveled far together – scarred but unbowed, grown in years but the fire of commitment remains. And you and I will continue to travel far together; we will chase our little star together. Our star of hope that will bring justice and peace in our time.

Maraming salamat sa ‘di malilimutang tatlong taon na pagsasama at paglilingkod.

Maraming salamat sa makabuluhang paglalakbay para sa karapatang pantao at para sa sambayanan.

Mabuhay ang TFDP!

Mabuhay ang Karapatang Pantao!


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