PGMA bares P10-billion allocation for poverty alleviation in 2008 budget
Manila (15 October) -- Highlighting the close inter-connection between poverty and human rights, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today her administration will mobilize P10 billion in the government's 2008 national budget to eradicate extreme poverty and "keep the cause of human rights alive."
"We must address the spawning ground of terrorist recruitment – the specter of poverty," the President said in her opening address at the regional workshop on the "Establishment of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) in Asia" at the Traders Hotel along Roxas Blvd., Pasay City this morning.
"The world needs us to be compassionate fighters in the war against poverty and terror, to keep the cause of human rights alive, to preserve a universal framework of human decency and social justice," she said.
She said the independent Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) was a beacon for the Filipino's dignity, welfare, peace and development.
"We respect the Commission's independence, appreciate its human rights advisories and recommendations, and acknowledge its role as a watchdog of government's compliance with human rights treaty obligations," the President added.
She said the government's record on human rights is opened to scrutiny. "We deplore any and all killings of political activists and journalists. I have met personally with the journalism community and the same with human rights activists. We share their outrage," the President said.
She pointed out that her administration has followed the recommendations of the Melo Commission on the creation of separate courts to try cases of human rights violations, and increased allocations for the hiring of more investigators.
Headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, the commission was created by the President to undertake a thorough investigation of extra-judicial killings of journalists and political activists.
She also thanked the Supreme Court for setting up special courts to expedite cases of human rights violations.
At present, 76 criminal cases on political killings are undergoing trial, while 33 others are being prepared for prosecution, the President said, adding that six persons have been convicted, among them a former police sergeant and a former soldier.
In setting aside P10 billion for poverty-alleviation programs, the President stressed that "peace there is very much an issue of human rights, just as alleviating poverty is, which is our number one issue."
She expressed "great pride in the discipline of our administration to focus on the economy and our over-all economic health," adding that the "top priority" under the P10-billion allocation are projects of local government units (LGUs) "with high incidence of severe hunger and/or high unemployment."
To "prioritize the provision of jobs, livelihood and basic services to eradicate extreme poverty," she said she has ordered the China Projects Oversight Panel to "earmark an initial $120 million for programs and projects drawn up by local government units and agencies to uplift areas and communities suffering extreme poverty, as identified by the National Anti-Poverty Commission in consultation with the bishops and the NGOs (non-government organizations)."
She explained that she has already instructed the Cabinet to "undertake preparatory work on programs and projects in 2008, as approved by the House of Representatives, to ensure speedy implementation next year."
The Philippines is co-hosting the workshop which brings together representatives of 13 states from across the region, as well as representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), led by Gianni Magazzeni, senior human rights officer of the OHCHR's National Institutions Unit.
The OHCHR also brought along representatives from its Asia-Pacific Unit and its Regional Office for Southeast Asia, and the Asia-Pacific Forum (APF) Secretariat, as well as experts from existing NHRIs in Asia, including those from India and Sri Lanka.
Invited to the workshop are member states "which do not yet have established NHRIs in accordance with the Paris Principles." These are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Negara Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Papua New Guinea.
A total of 19 Asian countries, including the Philippines, already have their own NHRIs. The Philippines' Commission on Human Rights was established way back in 1987 in accordance with the new Philippine Constitution – pre-dating by six years the adoption in 1993 of the Paris Principles by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The Paris Principles provide that NHRIs shall be vested with the competence to promote and protect human rights based on six key criteria, namely: independence guaranteed by statute or the Constitution, autonomy from government, pluralism, broad mandate based on universal human rights standards, adequate resources, and working with others, including civil society. (OPS) [top]