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Yolanda survivor seeks probe on ‘slow’ gov’t response

MANILA, Philippines - A survivor of Super Typhoon Yolanda urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to investigate the government’s “slow, inefficient and inadequate” response to the plight of millions of her comrades.

Irma Balaba, a member of the delegation of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights (EcuVoice) in the Philippines, said thousands of desperate and traumatized residents fled the regions that Yolanda had affected.

The typhoon’s impact exacerbated the poverty incidence and intensified the number of victims of displacement in the Philippines, she added.

Representing the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, Balaba made an oral intervention delivered before member-states at the 26th session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland last Thursday.

“Up until now, the government does not have an alternative plan for the displaced communities that would ensure their long-term alternative livelihood, safe relocation areas, free housing and access to social services,” she said.

Balaba also urged the UNHRC to monitor and investigate how the assistance of the international community has been extended for relief and rehabilitation in devastated areas.

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Sr. Stella Matutina of the Sisters Association in Mindanao delivered Balaba’s intervention.

She is also part of the Philippine delegation of human rights advocates participating in the UNHRC sessions.

Rights advocates said the administration must also concentrate on aid workers who provide crucial, timely and relevant support for the victims.

From March 2012 to February 2013, Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan documented 12 cases of break-ins in houses of activists and peace advocates, and offices of progressive organizations.

They involved robberies of items like laptops, USB/flash drives, video cameras, as well as surveillance of known personalities and members of such organizations and institutions.

Heading the EcuVoice delegation at the UNHRC, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said: “It appears that the intelligence operatives of the state are gathering more data on their perceived government critics and even aid organizations. These incidents are clearly systematic attacks against organizations and institutions, made to appear as cases of common crimes. It is only the military which would have the motive and means to carry out these attacks.”       

 

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