Concrete actions, plain answers from the government needed to address impunity, legal factors contributing to continuing violations pointed out in UN forum

National Union of Peoples'Lawyers' Edre Olalia (fourth from left) speaks in the 25 May side event while Christina Palabay (Tanggol Bayi), Renate Bloem (CIVICUS), Marie Hilao-Enriquez (KARAPATAN), Atty. Edre Olalia, Bai Ali Indayla (KAWAGIB and Moro-Christian Peoples' Alliance), and Hon. Ernan Baldomero (Municipal Councilor and son of 1st victim of EJK under Aquino's term) looks on.

Press Release, May 27, 2012 – “With a legal and judicial system engendering human rights violations, the structure that bred impunity is still very much in place,” Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) said in a forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) the other day in a side event running up to the review of the Philippines on May 29 under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The side event at the Palais des Nations in Geneva , Switzerland was organized by the Philippine UPR Watch and several international NGOs. The NUPL, of which Atty. Olalia is the Secretary General, is a member of the Philippine UPR watch.
Atty. Olalia joined Filipino human rights defenders and victims during the side event and registered the continuing call to the government to take concrete and effective actions against the long-standing climate of impunity. “The administration has so far remained to be largely a passive spectator if not an uncaring onlooker,” he said.

“With that, victims and human rights defenders have their initiatives and courage to cling their hopes upon towards their pursuit to exact accountability and realize justice for the victims,” Atty. Olalia added.

There have been various legal actions that have been initiated but all of these were through the efforts of civil society organizations and human rights groups. This includes the criminal complaint and civil case for damages involving the illegal arrest, detention, and torture of the Morong 43, the criminal complaint against Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and his ilk regarding the disappearance of university students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, the complaint of Raymond Manalo against Gen. Palparan pending with the Office of the Ombudsman and the civil case for damages of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

“While human rights organizations have taken up the cudgels in improving the human rights situation, the government has failed to do whatever little work is left with it,” Atty. Olalia said, referring to the Philippine Government’s failure to capture fugitive Gen. Palparan, the Philippine poster boy of impunity, despite months of manhunt and despite all its powers, resources and machinery.

Atty. Olalia shared an analysis of how the legal and judicial system through laws, jurisprudence and practices contribute to impunity. These include factors like the “criminalization of political offenses;” repressive jurisprudence like the Marcosian 1985 doctrine that renders a petition for habeas corpus unavailable by the subsequent filing of charges even if the arrest was illegal at the start because they are “cured” by such charges; abuse and ineffectiveness of the remedy of the writ of amparo; promotion of perpetrators despite serious and credible charges; the slow grind and unduly prolonged and cumbersome legal process; the lack of an honest-to-goodness police investigation that is impartial, objective, and thorough; and the fear of witnesses to come forward because they are not assured of their safety, security and welfare under present witness protection programs.

Atty. Olalia echoed the critique by the Philippine Human Rights Watch of the Report of the Philippine government: “We do not need those fancy and sophisticated schemes, bureaucratic agencies and mechanisms and even grandiose structures and plans (purportedly aimed at addressing the continuing violations.) We need clear, plain answers. We want justice. And we want it now,” Atty. Olalia added. #

Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, Secretary General, +639175113373

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