The Supreme Court decision declaring the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) policy unconstitutional has been hailed by militant and human rights groups as a blow against tyranny. But the usual suspects in the Arroyo regime are talking as if it were a declaration in behalf of suppression.

Leading the pack is the Secretary of (in)Justice, whose warped logic saw a cloud in the silver lining the SC decision should have been. He declared that the government had won because the Court affirmed the validity of BP 880 (the Marcos-era law requires demonstrators to get permits). Throwing in their two cents’ worth–the exact value of their opinions–were the regime’s police lackeys, who saw in the SC decision only a license to refuse rally permits.

Besides their seeing everything from the sole perspective of regime interests, what’s obvious from such statements is that the regime will persist in repression no matter what the Court says. That is of course in keeping with its exercise of the principle that laws are only paper, and will remain on paper if not implemented.

The disparity between the law and its implementation is well-known to many Filipinos. And foreign governments, agencies and institutions have come to realize as well that what Philippine laws say is usually different from, and even subverted by, the reality on the ground.

For precisely this reason, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has urged the United Nations General Assembly to reject the Philippine bid for membership in the UN Human Rights Council.

AHRC aims to protect and promote human rights in Asia, through UN human rights policies and agencies, and campaigns for judicial reforms to assure compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its current Directors are from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. (Of the two Philippine representatives, one, Rene V. Sarmiento, is incidentally a new Arroyo appointee to the Commission on Elections.)

The Philippines, argued AHRC in an angry April 25 statement, “does not deserve a seat” in the UN Human Rights Council. The Philippine government “shows no genuine intent in implementing international human rights standards. Its commitments are meaningless. [It] cannot be believed. Its record is stained with the blood of [human rights violations] victims. Its only achievement has been to deepen frustration and distrust among ordinary Filipinos.” Giving the Philippines a Council seat would be “a farce and an injustice.”

AHRC recalled the 2003 recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee that noted the Philippines’ “lack of appropriate measures to investigate” and “lack of measures taken to prosecute and punish the perpetrators” of the killing of human rights activists and journalists. AHRC said the Philippines “has done nothing in response. On the contrary, recent times have seen an alarming increase in the number of activists killed, abducted and forcibly disappeared.”

The Philippines, AHRC continued, has a so-called Witness Protection Act (RA 6981) that’s good only on paper. In numerous instances, RA 6981 has failed to protect witnesses to killings, who at times have themselves ended up dead.

“The government’s failure to move RA 6981 from paper into reality flies against the UN Committee’s concluding observation urging the Philippines to ‘adopt legislative and other measures to prevent such violations'”. AHRC concluded, as many Filipinos have long known, that “apparently even existing legislation cannot be enforced [by the Philippine government]”.

AHRC singled out the governmental Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for its failure “to intervene effectively to address the killings and other gross abuses [in the Philippines…The CHR is a weak organization that lacks power to implement its decisions.” AHRC cited the case of the killing of farmers in Palo, Leyte last November 2005, in which four military men are the suspects. CHR promised that charges would be filed against the four and that the victims’ survivors would receive financial aid.

“Nothing has happened,” said AHRC. “In short, such commitments by the CHR, like those by the government of the Philippines to the UN, are empty. They have no basis in reality.”

Neither has the present Philippine government lived up to its international commitments, among them the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). No Philippine law criminalizes torture, and it continues as a common police and military practice.

“Even attempts at protesting against torture… meet with stiff response. On 21 April 2006, 20 youths had their placards and leaflets confiscated outside the headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City.” The protesters were calling for an end to police torture, and an investigation into the torture of 11 young people detained in La Trinidad, Benguet. They “were told by arrogant police officers (the very same police officers obligated by the Supreme Court decision to stop breaking up rallies without permits) that they were acting illegally.”

(Business Mirror)

“What is the point in ratifying protocols to international laws that are not enforced?” asked AHRC. And why doesn’t the government pass a law against torture

consistent with its signing of the CAT? Why, asked AHRC further, doesn’t the government “look into the endemic use of torture by the country’s police and military?”

As every Filipino knows, the answer to these questions is exactly what AHRC has found out: the current Philippine government is not interested in protecting citizens’ rights, but in keeping Her Majesty and her putrid minions in power.

It will thus continue to act as it has acted in the past. It will instruct officials of the executive department to refuse to testify before the Senate despite the Supreme Court’s striking down the fundamental provisions of Executive Order 464. It will continue to suppress free expression despite the Court’s declaration that CPR is unconstitutional. Like all tyrannies, it is incorrigible to the point where it will ignore its own laws and its own institutions.

Luis V. Teodoro

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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