Appendix VI: Concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the Philippines

[CCPR/CO/79/PHL, 1 December 2003, extracts]

1. The Human Rights Committee considered the consolidated second and third periodic reports of the Philippines (CCPR/C/PHL/2002/2) at its 2138th, 2139th and 2140th meetings, held on 20 and 21 October 2003 (see CCPR/C/SR.2138, 2139 and 2140). It adopted the following concluding observations at its 2153rd and 2154th meetings (CCPR/C/SR. 2153 and 2154), held on 30 October 2003.

A. Introduction

2. The Committee notes the submission of the consolidated second and third periodic reports of the Philippines, which contain detailed information on domestic legislation in the area of civil and political rights, and the opportunity to resume the dialogue with the State party after an interval of more than 14 years. The Committee considers that the failure to submit a report for such a long period constitutes a failure to observe its obligation under article 40 of the Covenant.

3. The Committee welcomes the information provided in the report. While appreciating the delegation’s comments on a series of questions posed orally by members of the Committee, it regrets that an extensive number of questions remained wholly or partly unanswered at the conclusion of the discussion. Some additional written material received on 24 October 2003 was taken into account by the Committee.

B. Positive aspects

4. The Committee appreciates the progress made by the State party to reform its domestic legal order to comply with its commitments under the Covenant. It welcomes, among other actions, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant in August 1989. The Committee considers that the process of reform should be accelerated and strengthened.

5. The Committee notes with satisfaction that the State party has facilitated international assistance in relation to education and training on the protection of human rights.

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

6. The Committee notes the absence of information regarding the status in domestic law of the Covenant and on whether any Covenant provisions have been invoked in court proceedings to date.

The State party should ensure that its legislation gives full effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant and that domestic law is harmonized with the obligations subscribed to under the Covenant.

7. The Committee regrets the lack of information on the procedure for the implementation of the Committee’s Views under the Optional Protocol. In particular, it is concerned by the grave breaches by the State party of its obligations constituted by its lack of compliance with the Committee’s requests for interim measures of protection in cases submitted under the Optional Protocol (Piandiong, Morallos and Bulan v. Philippines).

The State party should establish procedures to implement Views of the Committee and to ensure compliance with requests for interim measures of protection.

8. The Committee is concerned about the lack of appropriate measures to investigate crimes allegedly committed by State security forces and agents, in particular those committed against human rights defenders, journalists and leaders of indigenous peoples, and the lack of measures taken to prosecute and punish the perpetrators. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at reports of intimidation and threats of retaliation impeding the right to an effective remedy for persons whose rights and freedoms have been violated.

(a) The State party should adopt legislative and other measures to prevent such violations, in keeping with articles 2, 6 and 9 of the Covenant, and ensure effective enforcement of the legislation.

(b) The State party should provide information on the outcome of the proceedings related to the cases of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy and the execution of 11 persons on Commonwealth Avenue, Manila, in 1995.

11. The Committee expresses concern regarding reported cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, harassment, intimidation and abuse, including of detainees, many of whom are women and children, that have neither been investigated nor prosecuted. Such a situation is conducive to perpetration of further violations of human rights and to a culture of impunity.

The State party should adopt and enforce legislative and other measures to prevent such violations, in keeping with articles 6 and 9 of the Covenant and to improve the implementation of relevant laws. The State party should conduct prompt and impartial investigations, and prosecute and punish the perpetrators.

12. The Committee is concerned about the reports of persistent and widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement officials and the lack of legislation specifically prohibiting torture in accordance with articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant. The Committee notes that evidence is not admissible if it is shown to have been obtained by improper means, but remains concerned that the victim bears the burden of proof in this event.

The State party should institute an effective system of monitoring treatment of all detainees, to ensure that their rights under articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant are fully protected. The State party should ensure that all allegations of torture are effectively and promptly investigated by an independent authority, that those found responsible are prosecuted, and that victims are given adequate compensation. Free access to legal counsel and a doctor should be guaranteed in practice, immediately after arrest and during all stages of detention. All allegations that statements of detainees have been obtained through coercion must lead to an investigation and such statements must never be used as evidence, except as evidence of torture, and the burden of proof, in such cases, should not be borne by the alleged victim.

14. The Committee is concerned that the law allowing for warrant-less arrest is open to abuse, in that arrests in practice do not always respect the statutory conditions that the person arrested is actually committing a crime or that the arresting officer has “personal” knowledge of facts indicating that the person arrested committed the crime. The Committee is also concerned that a vaguely worded anti-vagrancy law is used to arrest persons without warrant, especially female prostitutes and street children.

The State party should ensure that its laws and practices with regard to arrest are brought into full conformity with article 9 of the Covenant.

15. The Committee is concerned at continuing reports of displacement of persons and evacuation of populations, including indigenous population groups, in areas of counter-insurgency operations.

The State party should take urgent measures to ensure the protection of civilians in areas affected by military operations, in accordance with its human rights obligations.

20. In accordance with rule 70, paragraph 5, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party should provide information, within one year, on its response to the Committee’s recommendations contained in paragraphs 10, 11 and 14. The Committee requests the State party to provide information in its next report on the other recommendations made and on the implementation of the Covenant as a whole.

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