- Leading members of the United States (US) House of Representatives are satisfied with the efforts being undertaken by President Benigno S. Aquino III to address concerns that were earlier raised at Capitol Hill over the human rights situation in the Philippines.
The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. said American legislators, led by Kentucky Representative Harold Rogers, Chair of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, expressed satisfaction with the report of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on the progress that Manila has made in the human rights front.
Secretary De Lima is in Washington to lead government efforts in raising the awareness of American legislators as well as officials of the Department of State and the Department of Defense and leaders of non-government agencies on the human rights achievements of President Aquino.
The visit of Secretary De Lima comes in the wake of Manila’s recent success at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva where the Philippines was able to demonstrate improvements in its human rights record.
“We think we were able to bring our message across that the Philippines has been making significant progress as far as the human rights situation is concerned and that the Philippine Government continues to take concrete steps to address human rights issues,” Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia Jr. said.
In addition to Representative Rogers, Secretary De Lima also met with the following members of the House Committee on Appropriations and Committee on Foreign Affairs: Representatives Tom Marino (R, Pennsylvania), Steve Austria (R, Ohio),(R, California), Mike Kelley (R, Pennsylvania), (R, Oklahoma), and Donald Manzullo (R, Illinois). She is scheduled to meet with members of the US Senate this week.
According to Ambassador Cuisia, the American legislators Secretary De Lima met all expressed their support for the efforts of the Philippine Government to improve its human rights record.
“I am very pleased to learn about the progress being made by the Philippines and I will bring this to the attention of my colleagues,” Representative Marino, a member of the House Sub-Committee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, told Secretary De Lima, adding that the US should “assist true allies who promote human rights, observe the rule of law and dismantle organized crimes.”
Ambassador Cuisia said Secretary De Lima assured American legislators that the Philippine Government has been consistent in its efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of extrajudicial killings and other human rights cases that have previously been brought to the attention of Manila.
“The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have recently come up with a unified protocol called Operational Guidelines in Evidence-Gathering, Investigation and Case Build-up in Cases of Political and Media Killings,” Secretary De Lima told legislators.
“As an innovative measure, prosecutors are also now working closely with law enforcers in evidence gathering and case build-up,” she said.
Secretary De Lima also pointed to the creation of a special task force to oversee the investigation and prosecution of cases of extra-judicial cases and other human rights violations as well as the recent memorandum between the DOJ and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that aims to achieve a high level of operational capacity in investigating and prosecuting human rights cases.
Secretary De Lima also cited the following other steps being undertaken by the Philippine Government: