Human rights advocates urge implementation of RA 9851
Davao City, Philippines (25 February) -- In the run-up to the May 2010 polls when the country historically faces widespread electoral violence, fraud and political killings, human rights advocates are calling for the government to implement Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity.
RA 9851 was signed into law on 11 December 2009 in the wake of the Maguindanao massacre. This new law seeks to protect civilians from armed conflict, and prevent heinous crimes and grave human rights abuses from taking place in the country where war, armed conflicts, serious human rights violations and impunity are constant and alarming features.
But what may be considered as a bright spot in Philippine human rights legislation is facing a roadblock.
Today, more than two months after its signing and nearly three months after the heinous crime in Maguindanao---RA 9851 is far from taking effect as a law. The new law cannot take effect because until now, it has neither been published in two newspapers of general circulation or the Official Gazette. The constitution stipulates that only after a new Philippine law is published, then it can take affect after 15 days.
"This law will safeguard the rights of people during the election to threats of private armies and other forms of extortion or coercion, violence or harassment that undermine the sanctity of the vote and violate basic human rights," stated Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, an advocacy and solidarity institution promoting peace, conflict prevention, democratization and the right to self-determination in Southeast Asia.
According to military reports in 2001, some 100 private armies were behind about 80% of election-related violence. A special military task force estimates that these private armies are responsible for 68 of the 98 deaths recorded in the 2001 elections. In a comparative election-related violence data produced by the Philippine National Police, the 2001 elections recorded 132 deaths, superseded by the 2004 elections with 188 deaths and the 2007 elections with 158 people killed.
"In the face of the urgency of this law, we urge the Arroyo government to implement Republic Act 9851 by publishing it now! We want to end impunity and gross violations of human rights in our country such as the Maguindanao massacre perpetuated by private armies in pursuit of political power," added Miclat.
Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a statement saying it was preparing for an explosion in election-related violence in the Philippines and has identified central Mindanao as one of the hotspots. Police have also said they were racing against time to crack down on some 100 private armies known to be in control of politicians across the country and to account for over a million unlicensed firearms in circulation. (IID) [top]