Gov’t taking all necessary steps to protect, promote human rights

By Benjamin Pulta

April 24, 2024, 6:17 pm

<p>Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday assured that the government remains resolute in reforming law enforcement in the country to protect and promote human rights under the Bagong Pilipinas of the Marcos administration.

"We guarantee that reforms are in place to change the mindset and attitude of erring law enforcers and make them responsible for their actions. We are taking all the necessary steps to strengthen the criminal justice system and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations," Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a statement.

Remulla issued the statement following a report by the United States State Department that human rights abuses, including extra judicial killings (EJKs), continue to be a problem for the Philippines in 2023.

He added the DOJ always remind law enforcement agencies, and those in charge of the administration of justice that “there are no shortcuts in enforcing peace and order.”

“It is of primordial consideration that we, as responsible State enforcers, uphold the rule of law and resolve to protect and promote human rights. The DOJ, as the principal law agency and legal counsel of the government, remains deeply committed to the administration’s thrust towards a Bagong Pilipinas – one that is safe, peaceful, and just,” Remulla said.

In its 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department noted that while human rights issues continue to be a problem in the Philippines, the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and of some other abuses by government agents decreased.

It also noted that the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. continued the antidrug campaign – which began under the Duterte administration – “albeit with a focus on treatment and rehabilitation, due process, and rule of law-based investigations.”

In its latest report on the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) in November last year, the European Union (EU) has cited the willingness of the Marcos administration “to engage the international community on the issue of human rights,” having actively participated in multiple mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

It noted “several positive steps” taken by the government, including its "new focus" on prevention and rehabilitation in the campaign against drug and the visits of several UN Special Rapporteurs.

In February this year, visiting United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan took note of the DOJ’s measures to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of violence against journalists and human rights defenders, and asked the government to further strengthen the agency’s Administrative Order (AO) 35.

AO 35 is a government mechanism that brings together various agencies of the government against impunity.

Last March 14, the DOJ and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) aimed at facilitating assistance to victims of human rights abuses, summary executions, torture, and enforced disappearances, among others. (PNA)