UN special rapporteur’s best foot forward

Finally, I was able to see the profile of the United Nation’s special rapporteur for an inquiry into the extrajudicial, summary or abritrary executions in the Philippines. Colleagues in the human rights community had been talking positively about him, so I could not wait to see and hear him myself.

Despite his hectic and tight 10-day stint–which entailed his composure and openmindedness meeting with various groups having stake in the field of inquiry–Professor Philip Alston, with an indubitable track record for the promotion of human rights across the globe, managed to give a debriefing session with civil society organizations this morning at Arnaiz Ave., Makati City, a few hours before the time he had to be in the airport for a flight back homeAlston.

I read his press statement, more or less a summary of the findings that he will detail in a report that he is to produce and submit to the UN Human Rights Council.

Alston is not your type of a human rights advocate that states the HR principles in an emphatic manner, undeniably because he is a UN diplomat who must be ‘above suspicion’. I guess it’s not because of his enervating stint but because of his sober personality that he delivered his statement a bit lacking in passion.

His statement said it all, though. The State is the party most accountable to the state of extra-judicial killings in the society. He made a little mention of the culpability of the non-state actors but not directly. It was easily obscured (which is alright, I believe) by the accountability of the State forces like the ‘rogue elements’ (to use his term) of the AFP as a result of the counter-insurgency policy in the Philippines.

Alston bewailed that the accountability mechanisms and democratic spaces (that must be enjoyed even by the leftist groups) engendered by the 1986 revolution and mandated by the Philippine Constitution have gradually lost ground.

A diplomat indeed, Alston concluded his press statement with this sentence: “The various measures ordered by the President in response to Melo constitute important first steps, but there is a huge amount that remains to be done.” Inasmuch as I take that statement with a grain of salt, I understand his situation. It’s the only way he could have to leave the Philippines without being antiphatic to the Arroyo government. At the end of the day, just as he said it, the problem is a Filipino one. No outsider, despite his or her technical and moral support, can resolve that problem except the Filipinos themselves.

His press statement is here: press-statement-alston.pdf

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