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There's more to be done on human rights - CHR chief

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) yesterday enjoined Filipinos to do their share in ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights and stressed that more effort must be done to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.

CHR chairperson Leila de Lima pointed out that people must remember that human rights advocacy is “a continuing effort.”

“Success and failure in the promotion of human rights must be made on the basis of the amount of progress, or lack thereof, that has been made within a period of time. From our end, therefore, we choose to make this report, presented on the day of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), as the benchmark or starting point for future assessments,” De Lima said during a forum at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City yesterday.

She presented the CHR’s yearend report on the human rights situation in the country.

At the same forum, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney commended stakeholders – government, security forces, and human rights advocates – for their relentless initiatives to support human rights, and encouraged the people to do more to ensure that human rights in the country are upheld.

“We all have a lot to do… It’s not enough, and will never be enough, until we no longer have to get together every Dec. 10,” she said.

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According to De Lima’s report, the right to life remains at the forefront of the challenges facing human rights advocacy. The constitutional body’s data disclosed that the CHR has taken cognizance of about 142 cases of “politically motivated” unexplained killings in the country from last year up to the 3rd quarter of this year. Of the 142 cases, the CHR said 30 cases occurred in Region 7; 29 in Region 11; 20 in Region 8; 15 in Region 6; and 12 cases in Region 5.

The CHR said that almost all of the 180 victims of unexplained killings were affiliated with certain activist groups, labor organizations, and other political associations.

On enforced disappearances, the CHR said that it documented 37 cases of enforced disappearance, abduction or kidnapping during the same period, with 49 victims mostly from Regions 3 and 8.

De Lima said that with the absence of national legislation penalizing the use of torture, police and other personnel involved in the apprehension and detention of suspects, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR) and some cities in the country, continue to inflict torture and other cruel and degrading treatment of detainees.

However, she added, there are no government statistics on torture incidence. 

 Meanwhile, President Arroyo said that the government remains committed to the protection of human rights in the country.

She signed Administrative Order 249 yesterday, which contains a set of directives to various government agencies on how to strengthen their respective policies, plans and programs for the promotion and protection of human rights. - Katherine Adraneda, Reinir Padua, Marvin Sy

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