Multi-sectoral human rights monitoring body pushed in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 27 July)- Representatives from civil society organizations (CSOs) in Bukidnon have pushed for the creation of a provincial multi-sectoral body to monitor human rights issues in the area.

The recommendation, among others, emerged on Thursday during the workshop of the Community-based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and CSOs in Bukidnon.

The recommendation is a repeat of the recommendation in a 2009 dialogue on the same issue of militarization.

Participants cited the lack of a wider multi-sectoral body to monitor human rights issues in the province as one of the challenges in the area.

The dialogue, initiated by the Alternative Law Group (ALG), is a follow up
to a similar dialogue in 2009 meant to review the accomplishments from
the first workshop.

The proposed human rights monitoring body is envisioned to provide venue for communities and government agencies “to discuss and act together” to address issues like the Pulangi V dam, extra-judicial killings, and overlapping of tenurial instruments.

The dialogue participants also pushed for education and information campaign on human rights, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), and the Extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program for both communities and government agencies.

The AFP and the PNP was also asked to “proactively engage” the communities in human rights promotion and protection.

The lack of clear referral mechanism among agencies on human rights cases was also pointed out to have caused confusion among affected communities.

The participants also cited the alleged lack of representation among different sectors in local governance and the conflicting laws leading to overlapping tenurial instruments.

One emerging human rights issue expressed during the forum is global control of the resources, with the possible entry of carbon trading.

The participants also pushed the creation of multi-sectoral bodies to address specific issues including the joint fact-finding committee for the proposed Pulangi V and the multi-sectoral task force for the investigation of the slaying of Sumilao farmer-leader Renato “Ka Rene” Peñas.

During the 2009 dialogue, issues in the region, particularly per province, were raised and plans were developed in addressing the issues, Atty. Normita Batula, ALG executive director, said.

The ALG organized the dialogue to explore the processes and mechanisms in maximizing government provided assistance and remedies in addressing human rights issues and to come up with a plan and sustainability mechanism in monitoring and addressing human rights concerns.

Among the issues raised in the 2009 dialogue include the possible entry of AFP/PNP elements in IP communities with respect to the proposed Pulangi V dam project and that the IPs were caught in the crossfire between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People’s Army.

The ALG is a coalition of 20 non-government organizations including Balaod Mindanaw. According to a press release, the coalition and the member organizations “adhere to the principles and values of alternative or social development-oriented law practice” with distinct programs for legal assistance. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)