‘High tech’ reporting focal vs human rights violations -CHR

In order to advance human rights protection in the Philippines, Quisumbing said, the commission has to do away with its "primitive" information system that has placed their capacity to report facts and the truth at a dismal state.

"Our non-government organization partners are more informed," she said as she stressed that reports on human rights abuses is a powerful weapon in protecting human rights.  "But much of these information are lost and not put to use," Quisumbing said.

She said the CHR's information system did not provide them with updated reports and reliable facts to back their advocacies and campaigns.

She said the lack of systems in documenting, storing and reporting information on abuses resulted in inaccurate and inconsistent figures about violations against activists, journalists and other sectors.     

She announced they have adopted a project on a reporting scheme that uses Martus, a software technology that promotes efficiency and security in documenting, storing, and reporting information on human rights violations.

Quisumbing and other commissioners met regional CHR officials and representatives from partner organizations in Mindanao on July 14 at the Marco Polo Hotel to present the second phase of the Martus project.

"Where do we go from data to justice?" she asked.  "If we do not know the facts, we do not know the truth," she said.

The Martus project makes use of a software that provides a quick and secure way of organizing information and documenting human rights violations through text-based bulletins. It also provides a means of securely transmitting reports to the CHR and concerned human rights advocates, allows tracking of progress on these violations as cases, allows monitoring of the disposition of specific cases, and provides a means for analyzing and disseminating information on the violations to support advocacy and public outreach on critical problems.

The system was presented during the meeting via a skit presentation where a report about a violation was filed by an NGO, transmitted to the CHR via internet and passed to the appropriate CHR field office.

Quisumbing said this provides a "paperless" reporting system and prevent security threats against complainants.

Implemented first from August 2002 to December 2004, the project was run jointly with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and The Asia Foundation (TAF), an American non-stock, non-profit organization. 

According to TAF, the project was implemented around the country and made considerable progress in improving the capacity of the CHR to generate, accept, and transmit reports.

In the second phase, TAF and CHR aims to strengthen the capacity in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and other areas to identify, process, and respond to human rights violations by increasing quality of information via more integration in the CHR information system.

According to TAF, they also aimed to "solidify and expand" the network of Martus users in  predominantly Muslim areas in Mindanao where "a large number of human rights violations occur" and also to ensure that local stakeholders will have ownership of the project.  

Quisumbing said the reporting system is very crucial especially when the CHR is poised to closely monitor the compliance of the government on human rights in a time where there is an "evidence of a rising number of human rights violations" and a growing international outcry against these abuses.(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)