University of Minnesota

Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee, Philippines,
U.N. Doc. CCPR/CO/79/PHL (2003).

Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee


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.

9. The Committee has noted pending legislation related to terrorism awaiting adoption by the Congress of the Philippines. While the Committee is mindful of the security requirements associated with efforts to combat terrorism, it is concerned by the exceedingly broad scope of the proposed legislation, as acknowledged by the delegation. The draft legislation includes a broad and vague definition of acts of terrorism which could have a negative impact on the rights guaranteed by the Covenant.

The State party should ensure that legislation adopted and measures taken to combat terrorism are consistent with the provisions of the Covenant.

10. The Committee notes the current partial moratorium on execution of death sentences (while drug-related crimes are excluded from this moratorium), but it remains concerned by the adoption of legislation providing for the death penalty after article 3, section 19(1), of the Constitution of the Philippines had prohibited the imposition of the death penalty. In any event, the Committee has noted that the death penalty is mandatory for a number of crimes and extends to an excessive number of offences which do not fit the definition of the "most serious" crimes within the meaning of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. The Committee notes that the death penalty is prohibited for persons under 18 years of age, but is concerned that minors have been sentenced to death, seven of whom are currently detained on death row.

The Committee urges the State party to take measures to repeal all laws which have made it possible to impose the death penalty and to accede to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant. It should also ensure compliance with article 6, paragraph 5, of the Covenant prohibiting the imposition of the death sentence for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age.

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.

13. The Committee notes with concern numerous instances of trafficking (art. 8) of women and children in the Philippines, both within the country and across its borders. While noting the importance of existing legislation (R.A. 9208) in this domain, it is concerned that insufficient measures have been taken actively to prevent trafficking and to provide assistance and support to the victims.

The State party should take appropriate measures to combat trafficking in all its forms, by ensuring effective enforcement of the relevant legislation and imposing sanctions on those found responsible. The Committee encourages the State party to ensure gender-specific training to sensitize the officials involved with problems faced by victims of trafficking, in accordance with articles 3, 8 and 26 of the Covenant.

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.

16. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) in 1997 and the subsequent establishment of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), but remains concerned about the lack of effective implementation of the legislation. The Committee welcomes the positive measures noted by the delegation, but considers their scope to be limited. It is further concerned at the human rights implications for indigenous groups of economic activities, such as mining operations.

The State party should ensure effective enforcement of the above legislation and ensure that indigenous peoples' land and resource rights enjoy adequate protection in relation to mining and other competing usage, and that the capacity of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is strengthened. Positive measure should be expanded to include land rights issues.

17. The Committee is concerned that the measures of protection of children are inadequate and the situation of large numbers of children, particularly the most vulnerable, is deplorable. While recognizing that certain legislation has been adopted in this respect, many problems remain in practice, such as:

a) The absence of adequate legislation governing juvenile justice and the deplorable situation of children in detention, including those held without evidence for prolonged periods of time;

b) Persistent reports of ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, in situations of detention and children being detained together with adults where conditions of detention may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (art. 7);

c) Street children vulnerable to extrajudicial executions and various forms of abuse and exploitation;

d) Children as young as 13 allegedly being used by armed groups without adequate measures of protection by the State (art. 24);

e) Economic exploitation of children, in particular in the informal sector.

The State party should:

a) Expedite the adoption of legislation governing juvenile justice which complies with international standards of juvenile justice in accordance with article 10, paragraph 3, of the Covenant. The Committee recommends that training for professionals in the area of administration of juvenile justice be enhanced and that human and financial resources for effective implementation of the new legislation be secured;

b) Devise programmes for street children which offer support and assistance. Support to relevant non-governmental organizations is encouraged in this respect;

c) Take all appropriate measures to ensure protection of children who have been involved in armed conflict and provide them with adequate assistance and counseling for their rehabilitation and reintegration into society (art. 24); and

d) In relation to child labour, the State party should pay particular attention to the situation concerning the monitoring and effective implementation of labour standards for street children and children working in the informal sector, as well as those working in the Free Trade Zone.

18. While the Committee takes note of the constitutional provisions guaranteeing equal treatment of all persons before the law, the lack of legislation explicitly prohibiting racial discrimination is a matter of concern (arts. 3 and 26).

The Committee urges the State party to take the necessary steps to adopt legislation explicitly prohibiting discrimination, in accordance with articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant. The Committee notes that legislation related to sexual orientation is currently being discussed in Congress and urges the State party, in this context, to pursue its efforts to counter all forms of discrimination. The State party is further invited to strengthen human rights education to forestall manifestations of intolerance and de facto discrimination.

D. Dissemination of information about the Covenant (art. 2)

19. Attention of the State party is drawn to the new guidelines of the Committee on the preparation of reports (CCPR/C/66/GUI/Rev.1). The fourth periodic report should be prepared in accordance with those guidelines and submitted by 1 November 2006. It should pay particular attention to indicating the measures taken to give effect to these concluding observations. The Committee requests that the text of the State party's consolidated second and third periodic report and the present concluding observations be published and widely disseminated throughout the country.

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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