Press Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the Right Against Internal Displacement
The escalating insurgency and lawless violence in Mindanao caused by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other rebel groups brings again into the national consciousness the right against internal displacement of the people. Along with these are the rights to life, liberty, security of persons, abode, movement and the right to property, among others. The municipalities of Aleosan, Midsayap and Pikit in Cotabato are only three of the places where unnecessary loss of lives and properties are displayed and the right against internal displacement highlighted.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement – more popularly known as the UNGPID - while not directly defining the term internal displacement, gave meaning to “internally displaced persons” instead as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.”
The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines abhors any internal displacement especially caused by internal armed conflicts. Victims are the helpless civilians who are forced to flee their homes out of fear. Arbitrary loss of lives, limbs, properties and resources abound. The right of the people to livelihood is interrupted, the education of the children sacrificed and the people’s right to security and health held at risk. Families are literally uprooted from their houses and sometimes forced to be separated from each other. Communities are being dispersed. Our indigenous peoples, women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly remain the vulnerable groups most affected by internal displacement.
UNGPID provides for a comprehensive promotion and protection of the rights of the internally displaced persons before, during and after any displacement.
Among others, it provides that displacement of persons must be the last resort even when caused by internal armed conflicts, should not last longer than what is required under the circumstances and that the State should ensure minimization of displacement and its adverse effects. The right to participation, especially by those affected, must also be respected.
When inevitable, the authorities must ensure, inter alia: proper accommodation and shelter, essential food, water, medical services and sanitation; non-separation of members of the same family; special protection to indigenous peoples, minorities, peasants, pastoralists and other groups with a special dependency on and attachment to their lands, special protection to women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly; non-discrimination; and right against further acts of violence.
UNGPID further provides that “displacement shall not be carried out in a manner that violates the rights to life, dignity, liberty and security of those affected.”
The Commission on Human Rights respectfully reminds the government of its prime duty, under the Constitution, to serve and protect the people – even when fighting insurgency and defending national security. Respect for human dignity and human rights is primordial.
The Commission calls upon the military to protect the civilians at all times and respect and promote their human rights.
We call upon the National Disaster Coordinating Council and their local counterparts as well as the respective local government units to speed up relief operations to the victims especially the internally displaced. Providing evacuation centers is not enough. We must ensure that the proper standards of human rights are complied with.
We call upon the Legislature to pass the necessary bill on internal displacement currently filed in Congress in order to properly address the issue of displacement in the country and to pass a law on the grant of compensation to victims of cross fires.
Finally, the Commission reiterates its call upon the MILF and other rebel groups to show the true spirit of peace by respecting the human rights of all and refraining from using violence as a means of attaining their end regardless of whether the current situation in Mindanao is a consequence of the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
Violence is never, and will never be, a remedy to any crisis, problem or impasse. It is never an option. Violence never gives long-lasting solutions. Rather, violence promotes internal instability, disregards human dignity and human rights and further leads to pointless conflicts and unwarranted fears.
Its time that we say “enough.” Its time that we decide, as a nation, to finally resolve conflict and move towards peace, unity and justice.
Issued on 11 August 2008 at Quezon City, Philippines.
For the Commission:
ATTY. LEILA M. DE LIMA