Palace’s new rights body a publicity stunt, says BayanBy Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang’s newly established human rights “super body” is defective and could just be a “public relations effort,” a leftwing group said Tuesday.
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday 22 signed Administrative Order No. 35 creating the “Inter-agency committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons.”
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement Tuesday that the “super body” lacks focus because it will look into both “state and non-state actors” involved in rights abuses.
“Instead of focusing its efforts solely on state security forces–which have been acknowledged here and abroad as the main perpetrators of human rights violations– this new body will also take on alleged abuses by so-called non-state actors,” Reyes said.
“This will inevitably muddle the issues because these may now include actions by the Abu Sayyaf or by criminal groups,” he added. “The work of the Philippine government should focus on stopping the abuses committed by the state forces. We fear that this broad mandate will only dilute the issue of state-sponsored violations.”
The inclusion of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the group is also questionable, Reyes said.
“The body will inevitably come across abuses by the AFP. It is therefore strange that those being investigated are also part of investigating body. We can already expect the AFP to deny the allegations of abuses. What then would be the result if the AFP Chief of Staff sitting in the body denies the allegations?” he said.
The Secretary of Justice will head the committee and the other members will be the chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, the secretaries of the interior and local government and national defense, the presidential adviser on the peace process, the presidential adviser for political affairs, the director general of the Philippine National Police and the director of the National Bureau of Investigation.
The chairman of the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman will serve as observers but can also contribute their insights to the body.
“At the end of the day, this latest super-body will be judged based on the number of cases filed and convictions achieved with regards to human rights violations. The Aquino government is big on rhetoric but has not shown much results in terms of achieving justice for victims,” Reyes said.
If it does not produce results, it “will be the latest in a string of public relations efforts by the Philippine government directed primarily at the international community and donor governments,” he said.