EDITORIAL — Super rights body

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL � Super rights body

The creation of a so-called “super body” to enhance the human rights situation in the country has been greeted with skepticism by rights advocates, who think it will simply gloss over continuing violations under the current administration.

Rights groups count over 650 drug-related killings under President Marcos as of the first week of May. Still, in this area, the President is regarded as a marked improvement from his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration will always be remembered for the bloody campaign against illegal drugs that left over 6,000 suspects dead in officially recorded law enforcement operations.

Progressive groups also decry the continuing campaign against persons and groups tagged as terrorists, sympathizers or fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is classified by the government and several other countries as a terrorist group along with its military arm the New People’s Army and political wing the National Democratic Front.

On this the Marcos administration has been unyielding, with the President rejecting calls for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and for the repeal or at least amendment of Republic Act 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

To defeat the communist insurgency and terrorism, however, social justice and a healthy respect for human rights play critical roles. The government must show that its “super body” – the Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination – will not be a mere window dressing for the actual rights situation in the Philippines, as feared by critics.

As provided under Administrative Order 22 dated May 8, the committee is co-chaired by the executive secretary and the secretary of justice. Its members are the heads of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The committee is mandated to “enhance the mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.” Along this line, a “robust multi-stakeholder process” will be institutionalized, according to the AO.

Apart from pursuing a rights-based approach in counterterrorism and illegal drug control, the committee is tasked to enhance accountability and the investigation of possible rights violations. Access to mechanisms for redress will be facilitated and there will be closer monitoring of human rights abuses by law enforcers.

The Marcos administration has repeatedly assured the international community that it respects human rights. The objectives of the rights “super body” look good on paper. Now the government must show an earnest pursuit of those objectives.

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