Group urges local bets to include rights agenda

AS LOCAL campaigns started Monday, a human rights watchdog is seeking to ensure human rights agenda will be included in the electoral platforms of the local candidates.

Amnesty International (AI) Philippines said in a press conference in Cagayan de Oro on Monday that residents should choose candidates who prioritize human rights issues.

The AI's electoral project 'Sagot Mo Ba Ako?' is calling all bets to see human rights not as an accessory, but a necessity.

AI chairperson Riztlee Santos cited five points on human rights agenda which they recommend to local candidates, as well as the presidential and other national candidates.

The first agenda aims at ending extrajudicial executions and prevent the use of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism to justify human rights violations.

Second is establishing control and accountability over the military and police.

Third, ensuring the safe and voluntary return of the displaced, and embed human rights protection in the peace process, and last making human rights a priority integrated, and ratify key treaties on human rights.

"We are sure naman na magagawa nila ito after the first 100 days na umupo sila sa pwesto nila (that they can do this… as they sit on their elective posts)," Santos said.

The rights organization was in the city to launch its State of the World’s Human Rights Report 2015/16 Mindanao Leg.

In its report, the AI said it saw in 2015 an "insidious and creeping trend undermining human rights" which ironically emanates from government agencies "deliberately attacking, underfunding or neglecting institutions that have been set up to help protect human rights."

In the country, the rights watchdog highlighted the case of three lumad leaders, Dionel Campos, Aurelio Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca who were killed in Surigao del Sur in September 2015.

Santos said 13 lumads were killed in Mindanao, including the 4,000 evacuees who fled from their homes due to armed attacks by suspected militia.

"We have recorded a total of 53 extrajudicial killings of lumads during this administration since 2010, human rights groups here have confirmed that armed militia, allegedly trained by the military were responsible for these killings," Santos said.

Santos noted that although charges have been filed against suspects, none has been resolved.

Santos condemned the seemingly biased role of the police force which agrees to offer protection to businesses and mining operations in areas where insurgency is present.

"We hope that the same amount of law enforcement resources, if not more, should be given to very vulnerable civilian communities. The state should not treat them as enemies, we are challenging local government officials to do what is right for the people," Santos added.

Showing an amount of political support, he said, and fully funding systems to uphold laws should be ranked first. (PJO)

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