Sep 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09MANILA494.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA494
2009-03-06 07:59
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO1654
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0494/01 0650759
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 060759Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3422
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 000494

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS
LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ELAB KFRD RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES GOVERNMENT, CIVIL SOCIETY ON HUMAN RIGHTS

REF: A. MANILA 0365 (NEW PEACE PROCESS ADVISER
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT FUTURE TALKS WITH REBELS)
¶B. 08 MANILA 2732 (HUMAN RIGHTS DATA IMPROVES BUT
CIVIL SOCIETY STILL CRITICAL)
¶C. 08 MANILA 2103 (DEMONSTRATING COMMITMENT TO STOP
KILLINGS)

¶1. SUMMARY: (SBU) Mindful of broad concern among domestic and
foreign observers about the human rights situation in the
Philippines, the Ambassador in the first two months of 2009
embarked on a concentrated effort to engage government and
civil society audiences on human rights issues, and listen to
their views about the current environment. The participation
of the Ambassador and other senior Mission officials in
several events over six weeks demonstrated high-level U.S.
support for the Philippine government’s human rights
mechanisms, and also highlighted U.S. support for the role of
civil society in promoting and protecting human rights in the
Philippines. A key focus of the Ambassador’s engagement is
to identify proactive strategies that have achieved success
and share that knowledge with others. The events included
the launching of a U.S.-supported human rights database at
the Commission on Human Rights, a roundtable with civil
society human rights advocates, a U.S.-sponsored forum on the
role of journalists in promoting peace in the southern
Philippines, a major policy speech at the Philippines
Military Academy graduation, and a U.S.-funded training
seminar focused on human rights for young prosecutors. The
Ambassador’s plan for aggressive engagement will continue
into the second quarter, to include U.S.-sponsored training
on human rights for police and military. END SUMMARY.

HELPING THE GOVERNMENT TRACK HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
——————————————— —

¶2. (SBU) At a January 26 event at the Philippine Commission
on Human Rights (CHR), the Ambassador delivered remarks to
launch a nationwide database that tracks investigations of
human rights abuses. Three grants over six years from USAID
and the Bureau of Democracy, Rights, and Labor (DRL)
supported the work of The Asia Foundation on this project.
The database enables CHR national headquarters, CHR regional
offices, and civil society groups to document, report, and
monitor cases of human rights violations through a web-based
interface. Adapted from open-source human rights software,
the system permits immediate information sharing between the
CHR and cooperative civil society groups, critical for
disappearance and extrajudicial killing cases, which become
more difficult to solve over time. The Ambassador commended
the CHR for its commitment to protect and promote the human
rights of Filipinos, and called attention to the need to
strengthen judicial and law enforcement institutions so that
they can more effectively hold human rights violators
accountable. The Ambassador’s remarks were widely and
favorably reported in the press.

BRINGING HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES TOGETHER
—————————————-

¶3. (SBU) Challenging civil society groups to focus on
positive ways to foment change, the Ambassador hosted a
February 4 dialogue at her residence with a dozen leaders
from groups active in human rights, including the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, the Ateneo Human Rights Center, and
the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights. Participants
shared their organizations’ best practices with the
Ambassador and each other, noting certain strategies as
particularly effective: heavy lobbying in both chambers of
the Philippine Congress for human rights legislation;
analyzing gaps between laws and their implementation to look
for weaknesses in human rights protections; providing
financial assistance to victims’ families to dissuade them
from dropping cases; creating networks of paralegals and
local human rights defenders; deputizing legal aid volunteers
as prosecutors through agreements with local governments; and
maintaining comprehensive and precise documentation for all
human rights investigations. The Ambassador acknowledged the
challenges of working on human rights issues in the
Philippines, and encouraged participants to focus on
achieving positive outcomes in their work and seek ways
around political and legal obstacles. This strategy, she
said, appeared to be more effective at producing results than
public campaigns that blame the government, a tactic employed
by some NGOs.

MANILA 00000494 002 OF 003

SUPPORTING HUMAN RIGHTS JOURNALISM IN MINDANAO
——————————————— –

¶4. (SBU) Demonstrating U.S. support for a responsible
Philippine press, the Ambassador addressed a Manila audience
of journalists and journalism students at a February 10 forum
on the role of the media in the Mindanao peace process. The
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a DRL grantee, hosted
the event, whose panel featured journalists and official
members of government and rebel negotiating teams. The
panelists shared many of the same concerns: the general
ignorance among journalists about the history of Mindanao,
the excessive use of the label “Muslim terrorists” when
referring to acts committed by lawless groups, and the need
to strike a balance between transparency and secrecy in peace
negotiations, because an uninformed press is more likely to
speculate and be inaccurate in its reporting. A peace panel
member suggested that journalists who assign blame for the
Philippines’ current troubles to its former colonizers should
recognize that the conflict in Mindanao is a Philippine
problem. The press, he emphasized, have an important role to
play in changing those perceptions and ending the conflict.
In brief remarks, the Ambassador noted that journalists can
have a positive impact on the quest for peace by holding
themselves to the highest standards of integrity and
accuracy.

AT THE MILITARY ACADEMY, URGING RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
——————————————— ———–

¶5. (SBU) In her February 20 address at the Philippine
Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio (septel), the Ambassador
congratulated nearly 300 graduating officers and 600 lower
classmen on their achievement, encouraged them to bring
innovation and discipline to their careers, and emphasized to
them the importance of upholding human rights and embracing
democracy. PMA graduates are considered to be the nation’s
elite, and many spend their careers in government service,
some eventually assuming high ranking positions where they
may have influence on government human rights policies. In
her remarks, the Ambassador said that even while the
Philippine and U.S. militaries serve with dedication in areas
of conflict, we must all continue to hold ourselves and
others accountable as we work to expand human rights and
create a world that respects these rights. Acknowledging our
two countries’ long, shared history, the Ambassador noted
that our nations’ close cooperation continues to demonstrate
our shared values, including through joint humanitarian
assistance projects conducted throughout the Philippines,
which have become increasingly effective in offsetting
terrorist elements in the country.

IMPROVING HUMAN RIGHTS AWARENESS AMONG PROSECUTORS
——————————————— —–

¶6. (SBU) On February 20, Acting PolCouns delivered remarks on
the importance of police-prosecutor cooperation in solving
human rights cases at a USAID-sponsored basic orientation for
Philippine prosecutors in Iloilo, organized by The Asia
Foundation. The remarks at the seminar’s graduation ceremony
capped five days of intense training covering court
procedures, evidence, and ethics, among other topics. Case
studies of extrajudicial killings were used to illustrate the
concepts, while the moot court session on the final day was
based on a fictional case of extrajudicial killing.

COMMENT: PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS IS A MISSION-WIDE ENDEAVOR
——————————————— ————-

¶7. (SBU) While the Mission takes advantage of special events
to deliver focused messages on human rights, Mission
engagement on the issue is an ingrained part of many U.S.
programs in the Philippines. Through courses sponsored by
the U.S. Department of Justice International Criminal
Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), the
Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) Program, and the Joint U.S.
Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), U.S. instructors deliver
human rights training to police and military personnel from
across the Philippines. A mid-March military law exchange
hosted by PACOM for 10 Philippine military and civilian
officials will include a workshop on the concept of command
responsibility and its connection to extrajudicial killings.
On the law enforcement side, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement and the Consular Section’s Fraud Prevention Unit
cooperate and coordinate with Philippine authorities to

MANILA 00000494 003 OF 003

apprehend perpetrators of human rights abuses and human
trafficking. With regard to development assistance, USAID
programs valued at over USD 2 million support the Philippine
government’s effort to respond more effectively to human
rights abuses, including through judicial reform. Even as
our 2008 Human Rights Report on the Philippines noted a
decline in the number of killings and disappearances from the
previous year, the Mission continues to push the government,
both publicly and privately, to take more aggressive action
to improve its capacity to protect the rights of its citizens.

KENNEY

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.