Here’s the text of the ACLU challenge to Obama’s real time data gathering involving Verizon:
Former Health Secretaries Cabral, Romualdez and Galvez Tan to file intervention and opposition to petitions versus the Reroductive Health law at the Supreme Court today, May 10, 2013 at 1030 am. I will be standing as their counsel with Prof Beth Pangalangan , Romel Bagares, GP Gonzales and Ethel Avisado.
Ms. Navanethem Pillay
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Manila, 21 March 2013
Urgent appeal in relation to the massive and gross human rights violations committed against Filipinos in Sabah by Malaysian state agents
Dear Ms. Pillay,
We respectfully submit that you consider this urgent appeal in relation to the massive and gross human rights violations committed against Filipinos in Sabah by Malaysian state agents. We request that you urgently intervene so that Malaysia will respect the human rights of the Filipinos in Sabah, recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I. Background of the gross human rights violation against Filipinos in Sabah
1) On 14 February 2013, suspected Filipino gunmen numbering between 80 to 100 were cornered in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island triggering the start of the Sabah standoff.
2) On 15 February 2013, the unidentified group of men introduced itself as the Royal Sulu Army reviving the longstanding claim of Sabah by the Sultanate of Sulu.
3) On 16 February 2013, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, stated that the renewed claim on Sabah by the Royal Sulu Army is not sanctioned by the Philippine government.
4) On 20 February 2013, Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said that Malaysian security forces are in control of the Sabah standoff and warned the Sulu Royal Army of the consequences if they refuse to surrender.
6) On 23 February 2013, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informed Malaysia that a ship on humanitarian mission, carrying social workers and personnel, would be dispatched to Lahad Datu to “fetch and ferry back the women and other civilians among the 180-member group who are holed out in Lahad Datu.” According to Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario “We sent the ship to Lahad Datu on a humanitarian mission. We are deeply concerned about the presence of five women and other civilians in the group, and we urge them to board the ship without delay and return home.”
7) On 01 March 2013, violence erupted on the 17th day of the Sabah standoff with a shoot-out after Malaysian security forces attempted to tighten a cordon around the Royal Sulu Army. Twelve Filipinos and two Malaysian police officers were reportedly killed during the exchange of gunfire. On the other hand, 10 followers of Kiram reportedly surrendered while others went to the sea to escape.
8) On 02 March 2013, more bloodshed occurred with 6 Filipinos and 6 Malaysian police officers being killed in an ambush set by the Royal Sulu Army. 
9) On 03 March 2013, Malaysian cops stated that three areas where firefights occurred were now under Malaysian control while a man linked to the earlier ambush was beaten to death after he tried to hostage civilians. 
10) Mopping operations of some 300 homes in the village ended at 6:30 in the evening. On the other hand, Kiram’s camp claims to have captured at least four Malaysian officials including a police officer, two military officials and a local government official after the clash on Saturday. 
11) On 04 March 2013, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to appeal for maximum tolerance. Secretary del Rosario also took the opportunity to personally convey the Philippine Government’s request for clearance for a Philippine Navy ship to proceed to Lahad Datu, Sabah to enable the Philippine medical personnel aboard to provide humanitarian and consular assistance and provide medical care to the wounded and ferry them and the remaining members of the group back to their respective homes and families.
II. Allegations of massive and gross human rights violation committed against the Filipinos in Sabah
12) On 08 March 2013, night time, Amira Taradji, (a Filipina) arrived in Patikul, Sulu, Philippines with about 200 other refugees.
13) Taradji was originally from Davao City, Philippines, and was among some 400 people who have arrived in Sulu, Philippines from Lahad Datu, Semporna, Tawau and Kunak all from Sabah, Malaysia.
14) Taradji said she and her family sailed from Sandakan to nearby islands … “from one island to another—until we reached a small island where we took a kumpit for the Philippines.” 
15) Taradji and her family lived in Sabah for the past 26 years. Though she and her family were MyKad (Malaysian identity cards) holders in Sabah, Malaysia, they abandoned their home when the police raids started on Monday night claiming that the police were ruthless.
16) Taradji said that Malaysian policemen had ordered Filipino men to run as fast as they could and then opened fire on them.
17) Taradji further claimed that among those killed that way on Monday night, during a “zoning operation” by police in a Filipino community in Sandakan was her brother, Jumadil.
18) Taradji further added that the constant raids by Malaysian security forces was harrowing and said Filipinos she encountered before leaving Sabah said they too had witnessed Filipino men being rounded up in Tawau and Kunak. 
19) Taradji added that some of the arrested men, who tried to dissuade the police from arresting them by waving immigration documents, were killed just the same for trying to evade the raiders.
20) Taradji further said that, “Even if you have valid immigration document, you will not be spared. If you are lucky to reach the jail, you will die of starvation because they will not feed you,” adding she has lived in Sandakan since she was a child.
21) Another of those who made it back to the Philippines, Carla Manlaw, 47, said it was fear of the Malaysian policemen following stories of the abuse and killings that prompted her and other Filipinos to sail to Bongao in Tawi-Tawi.
22) Manlaw and 99 others, including children and the elderly, arrived in Philippines waters aboard two motorboats after sailing for about two hours from Sandakan. They were intercepted and escorted by a Philippine Navy ship until they reached Bongao late Friday, 08 March 2013. 
23) She said that while her employer in Sandakan had no problem with employing her, she was scared of the police and “what they will do to us.” 
24) When Manlaw heard that a vessel was returning to Bongao from Sandakan, she immediately grabbed her things and boarded it.
25) Also on 08 March 2013, late Friday night, Mayor Hussin Amin of Jolo, Sulu, Philippines, said the accounts of Filipinos fleeing police abuse in Sabah were “alarming and disturbing” and the Philippine government should look into it.
26) He said he had spoken with many refugees and their stories were the same: Malaysian soldiers and policemen do not distinguish between illegal immigrants and MyKad holders. 
27) “Soldiers and policemen stormed their houses and even those with legitimate working papers like passports and IC papers were not spared. These documents were allegedly torn before their eyes. Men were told to run and were shot if they did. Those who refused were beaten black and blue. Filipinos in jail were executed,” Mayor Amin said by phone late Friday.
28) “We are asking our government to investigate now. Refugees from Sandakan and Sabah had spoken to us about their ordeals. If indeed what they have been telling us is true, then Malaysian authorities are not just targeting the Kirams in Lahad Datu,” Mayor Amin said.
29) Mayor Amin said that for now, he tended to believe the stories told by the refugees that Filipino men, especially Tausug, were being killed in the streets and in detention centers in Malaysia. “Our people are treated like animals there and this has to stop because they are no longer hitting the Kirams,” Amin said.
30) He said one reason why he believed the stories was his observation that children and women were so “deeply traumatized” that they tried to flee when they saw Filipino policemen as they arrived in Jolo.  “Some (of them) even attempted to jump to the sea, thinking they were still in Malaysia,” he said, referring to scenes at the Jolo port this week.  “I spoke to them and gave them assurance that they were all home and no one would harm them now and the policemen securing the port were not Malaysians but Filipinos protecting them,” Amin said. 
31) On 10 March 2013, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a press statement on the reported violation of human rights of Filipinos in Sabah, which states:
DFA Statement on the Reported Violation of Human Rights of Filipinos in Sabah
Sunday, 10 March 2013 17:05
10 March 2013
The Department of Foreign Affairs views with grave concern the alleged rounding up of community members of Suluk/Tausug descent in Lahad Datu and other areas in Sabah and the alleged violations of human rights reported in the media by some Filipinos who arrived in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi from Sabah.
The Department is coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other relevant agencies to document these reports so that appropriate actions could be taken.
The Department urges the Malaysian government to take steps to clarify these alleged incidents.
The Department continues to call on the Malaysian Government to give our Philippine Embassy officials and the Philippine humanitarian/consular team dispatched to Lahad Datu and nearby areas full access to the Filipinos being held “in several locations in Sabah but outside the ‘Ops Daulat’ area,” as announced by the Malaysian Inspector General of the Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar on 08 March 2013, to enable them to fulfill their mission which is to provide humanitarian and consular assistance to Filipinos who have been affected by the incident.
We reiterate our call on the Malaysian Government to give humane treatment to the Filipinos under their custody.
The allegations are alarming and should be properly and immediately addressed by concerned authorities. END
32) On 11 March 2013, the chair of the Regional Human Rights Commission of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RHRC-ARMM) appealed for an end to violence in Sabah and to peacefully resolve the issue as reports of alleged human rights violations of Filipinos there were “very alarming.”
33) “Grabe, grabe ang mga nakita nila” (What they witnessed was very disturbing), Laisa Masuhud Alamia, chair of the month-old RHRC, said of the accounts of Filipinos who arrived in Sulu from Sabah on Thursday and Friday (07-08 March 2013). 
34) Alamia said in a telephone interview that based on the accounts of those who fled Sabah, several Filipinos, particularly Tausugs or Suluks as they are known in Sabah, were shot, arrested and tortured and that the victims were not members of the “Royal Security Forces of Sulu and North Borneo” but civilians. 
35) As of noon of 11 March 2013, the RHRC has recorded a total of 1,191paguys who arrived — 767 in Tawi-Tawi and 424 in Sulu — on board nine boats from Sabah beginning March 6, a day after Malaysia launched aerial and ground attacks to signal the start of “Ops Daulat” to flush out of Lahad Datu in Sabah the “Royal Security Forces” of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. 
36) Altogether, 1,479 Filipinos had arrived from Sabah since March 2, of whom 288 were through organized deportation and 1,191 through self-deportation.
37) Alamia said some of the paguys are “self deportees,” among them farmworkers at oil palm plantations there who have no ICs and who immediately boarded the boat upon learning of the crackdown.
38) An IC is an Identity Card issued to Malaysian citizens and permanent residents for identification, indexing and tracking purposes.
39) But Alamia reported that some paguys informed them that even those with ICs or passports were not spared, that “when they’re caught, their ICs or passports were torn or destroyed by the Malaysian authorities and they were beaten.”
40) She noted that a number of the paguys “exhibited reluctance to be interviewed” by DSWD workers providing assistance to them, immediately leaving with their relatives after receiving assistance.
41) She said they learned that they were “afraid that Philippine authorities would arrest them.” 
42) “Apparently they were referring to pronouncements that members of the Kiram group would be arrested when they come back. They thought this also applies to them,” Alamia said. 
43) She appealed to all parties involved to end the violence and begin the peaceful resolution of the issue, and called on the Malaysian government to “allow the entry into Sabah of the Philippine humanitarian contingent to provide relief to the Filipinos trapped there and to allow them to be brought back to the country.” 
44) On 17 March 2013, it was reported that Filipinos, who had fled Sabah in the aftermath of the armed intrusion there by the Sulu “royal army,” had learned to endure the pains of being violently beaten by Malaysian security forces during crackdowns on suspected Sabah-based supporters of the sultanate’s men just to stay alive, survivors had claimed.
45) Ibrahim Alih, 38-year old Sama native from Zamboanga City, told the INQUIRER that “I did not run when they ordered me to run because I know they will shoot me. What I did was to bear the pain when they hit me,” as he was being processed by government agencies before sending him home. 
46) Alih, who was rounded up for failing to present immigration documents during Monday last week’s sweep on his neighborhood in Sandakan, said he did not care even if blood was already coming out of his wounds because he knew it was safer for him to just submit to the beating. 
47) When he noticed that the Malaysian forces appeared to be hell bent on beating him to death, Alih said he shouted: “I’m not a Tausug, I’m a Sama Badjao.” 
48) Upon hearing this, the Malaysian forces allegedly stopped from hurting him but they still frisked him and took the RM700 he earned from being a carpenter in Sabah for the past four months. 
49) He was then allowed to board ML Fatima Editha – along with hundreds of other Filipinos trying to find a space on the crammed boat – for Tawi-Tawi province.
51) Twenty-year old Sherilyn Viado, who worked in a construction company in Sabah, said she too had to assert her ethnicity when Malaysian policemen prepared to gang up on her.
52) “I told them that I’m not a Tausug but a Badjao,” she said, adding that Malaysian security forces were singling out people from Sulu or Sabahans known as Suluk (people who originated from Sulu).
53) “If you’re a Tausug, you will surely land in jail even if you had valid papers,” Viado, a native of Zamboanga del Sur, said. 
54) Viado said Malaysian forces were so angry at Tausugs and Suluks that they do not put distinction between males and females anymore.
55) “We saw on TV how they beat Tausugs, including women,” she claimed.
Viado said Tausugs or Suluks who had disappeared from her neighborhood had not resurfaced since their arrest “and the lack of information on their fate had sowed unimaginable degree of fear on us.”
56) Annang Im, 50, who tended a small sidewalk store in Sandakan, said she did not experience being abused but she saw how male Filipinos caught up during the sweeps had been made to physically suffer by Malaysian policemen.
57) Im, a Tausug-Visaya, also confirmed Viado’s claim that Malaysian security forces hated Tausugs and Suluks so much that they did not care even if suspects were killed during the sweeps. “It is because of what the Kirams did in Lahad Datu,” she said.
58) Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail announced in a statement that an investigation into the reported abuses has started and those complaining of such excesses will be assisted by the Malaysian Bar and the Sabah Law Association. 
III. Request for urgent action
The Filipinos in Sabah, Malaysia, have been subjected to massive and gross human rights abuses by Malaysian state agents, in violation of the UDHR. The rights of these Filipinos in Sabah violated by Malaysian state agents include, but are not limited, to the following:
(a) right against any discrimination under Articles 2 and 7 UDHR;
(b) right to life, liberty and security of person under Article 3 UDHR;
(c) right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under Article 5 UDHR;
(d) right against arbitrary arrest, detention or exile under Article 9 UDHR; and
(e) right to a fair trial under Article 10 UDHR.
Accordingly, we appeal to your Office to:
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or if we can provide you with any additional information you may need.
H. Harry L. Roque, Jr.
“The situation on the ground in the conflict zone in Sabah is still quite murky and the government of Malaysia should provide clear and accurate information on what has occurred. At this point, it’s critical that the Malaysian authorities ensure the protection of all civilians in the area, and allow humanitarian access for the provision of emergency assistance to those affected by the violence. We’re concerned about the Malaysian government’s use of the Security Offenses Special Measures Act (SOSMA) to detain reportedly more than 50 individuals, and call on the government to either charge them with a recognizable criminal offense or release them. All parties to the conflict should heed the call of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to ‘act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards’.”
I did not want to write about Carlos Celdran. As a religious person myself, I found what he did—picketing and disturbing a religious event—offensive and in bad taste. I probably would have been incensed if I were one of those then worshipping at Manila Cathedral.
But because public opinion, at least among netizens, appears to be evenly split between those who support and condemn his conviction for offending religious feelings penalized by Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, it appears that as a legal educator, I should at least comment on the case.
Art. 133, like the Revised Penal Code’s provisions on libel, is yet another archaic and Jurassic crime which has lost its place in modern-day democracies. It is a form of Lest Majeste that finds reason in the fact that Spanish colonial rule was exemplified by the union of church and state. Criticize the church and one criticizes the crown, as well.
Given the precarious nature of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, with us Indios even rejecting to speak the language, I suppose during those times, the law could be defended as an exercise of police power of a waning colonial power.
It is sad hence that when the Philippine Commonwealth enacted the current Revised Penal Code that took effect on January 2, 1930, its drafters still incorporated the crime of offending religious feelings when the Supreme Court had already ruled that Lest Majeste, being a political crime, had ceased to be a crime with the onslaught of American colonial rule.
As a crime intended to bolster Spanish colonial rule, it is utterly inconsistent with the modern-day concept of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The rule, as we argued in the Supreme Court in our challenge against the Cybercrime Prevention Act, is that because of our constitutional commitment to freedom of expression as a means of arriving at the truth and as a means of reigning in abusive government though a full discussion of public issues, words alone should not be actionable unless they lead to a clear and present danger that the State has a right to prevent. Anent religious freedom, the Constitution guarantees the absolute freedom to believe, referred to as the free exercise clause, and a non-derogable guarantee that it will not favor or endorse a religion, referred to as the establishment clause.
Here, Art. 133 of the Revised Penal Code which punishes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during a celebration of nay religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful“ violate both constitutional guarantees. For one, even assuming what he did was “notoriously” offensive, which is doubtful given that the priest themselves have opted not to charge him with the crime, the reality is such cannot amount to a “clear and present danger”. Furthermore, to subject Celdran to imprisonment for offending feelings would be tantamount to the state endorsing a religion. Why else would it jail a person solely because he offended the feelings of members of a religion?
Perhaps in this controversy, it is best to remember the ruling of the Supreme Court in Iglesia ni Kristo versus Court of Appeals. This was a case where the MTRCB gave an “x” rating to pre-taped programs of the Iglesia ni Kristo criticizing religious dogmas of the Catholic Church, including the satire of the Virgin Mary. Here, the Court ruled that the “x” rating was a prior restraint and a violation of the guarantee of state neutrality in the realm of religious beliefs. According to former Chief Justice Reynato Puno. “The respondent Board may disagree with the criticisms of other religions by petitioner but that gives it no excuse to interdict such criticisms, however, unclean they may be. Under our constitutional scheme, it is not the task of the State to favor any religion by protecting it against an attack by another religion. Religious dogmas and beliefs are often at war and to preserve peace among their followers, especially the fanatics, the establishment clause of freedom of religion prohibits the State from leaning towards any religion. Vis-a-vis religious differences, the State enjoys no banquet of options. Neutrality alone is its fixed and immovable stance. In fine, respondent board cannot squelch the speech of petitioner Iglesia ni Cristo simply because it attacks other religions, even if said religion happens to be the most numerous church in our country. In a State where there ought to be no difference between the appearance and the reality of freedom of religion, the remedy against bad theology is better theology. The bedrock of freedom of religion is freedom of thought and it is best served by encouraging the marketplace of dueling ideas. When the luxury of time permits, the marketplace of ideas demands that speech should be met by more speech for it is the spark of opposite speech, the heat of colliding ideas that can fan the embers of truth.”
The much-awaited day set for oral arguments against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 last Tuesday, 15 January, started very early for me. While I was tasked a week before to bring the wide screen and the Powerpoint projector to the Supreme Court, I was only told on the same day to set it up as early as 12 noon. I was told this at 11 a.m. So while I would have wanted to spend time with fellow netizens encamped at the corner of Taft and Padre Faura, I did not have the time to do so.
The wait seemed like a very long time. While it was already the 10th time for me to argue before the Supreme Court, it always seems like the first. First to arrive to join me at the counsel’s table was Atty. Rodel Cruz of the Philippine Bar Association who like me, had very little sleep. He argued against the “take-down” clause, Section 19 of the law. He was with Atty. Jayjay Disisni. Rep Neri Colmenares and Atty. Julius Matibag, both form the Bayan group of parties, arrived last, coming obviously from the rally outside.
The hearing did not start promptly at two. It started about 20 minutes late with Senator TG Guingona making an opening statement that lasted 3 minutes. He did not say much but his reference to the law being a “cyber-vampire” was a hit with the media.
I had three submissions; to wit: both the law’s provisions on libel and cyber sex were null and void on the basis of “overbreadth” and “void for vagueness”. By definition, a law is “overbroad” when it
proscribes speech and its language is so broad that it could encompass even constitutionally protected speech. The test for vagueness, on the other hand, is when the statute leaves the public to guess as to exactly what is criminalized by a statute. The last submission was that our libel law is contrary to our treaty obligation under freedom of expression in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
I argued that the cyberlaw’s definition of libel was vague because it might encompass even protected speech. I asked, courtesy of screen shots from my former student Kevin San Agustin, whether retweets on Twitter and reposts and likes on Facebook could give rise to liability for libel. Likewise , I asked whether libelous remarks left at a comments portion of a blog could make the owner of the blog liable for libel. I then quoted from the Revised Penal Code’s provision on “who may be liable “ for libel and asked if the internet service providers, telcos and social networking companies could be liable for libel. All these, I argued, cannot be ascertained from the face of the statute itself.
Anent the cybersex definition, instead of arguing with words, I showed three pictures which depicted a nude woman, a couple engaged in the sexual act, and many people engaging in sexual conduct and asked of the pictures were “lascivious” and whether the people posting
online in exchange for a nominal consideration could be prosecuted for cybersex. The picture of the naked woman is on display at Moma in New York. The second, that of a couple engaging in sex, is exhibited at the Tate in London, while the third depicting couples engaging in sexual conduct is a permanent installation at the Sydney Opera House.
Four Justices subjected me to rigorous questioning which as I predicted, took about half the time of the almost five hours of oral argumentations. Justice Roberto Abad commented that the state has an
interest to protect the reputation of the people. I did not disagree with this proposition but highlighted the UN view in Adonis saying that this interest may be achieved through civil damages. Justice Antonio Carpio asked if libel in the Revised Penal Code may have already become unconstitutional because of the New York Times vs Sullivan doctrine which declared that speech about public officers could only be actionable when said with actual knowledge of falsity or
in utter disregard thereof; and the Constitutional right of the people to information on matters concerning public concerns. I answered affirmatively.
Justice Marvic Leonen asked about whether his former student, Christopher Lao, should be protected by the state from cyber bullying. He also asked if it was a legitimate state interest to protect minority views from the bullying of the majority. I replied that precisely, freedom of expression exists to protect unpopular speech since there is no need to protect popular speech. I also reiterated that victims could sue for damages, adding further that the absence of imprisonment as a consequence of breach of our civil laws does not make the civil code any less a law than the revised penal code.
Finally, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno asked about suicides arising from cyber bullying and the fact that legislation should in fact result in the “chilling “of rights to prevent these instances. It was
this question that elicited the most spirited response from me . Perhaps in a future column, I will reprint the transcript of how I answered this question. But from what I recall, I reiterated that the
Bill of Rights protects freedom of expression because this is the foundation of all other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. The freedom is guaranteed because it enables us to know the truth, quoting from Abrams vs. US that the “true test of truth is the power of the thought to be accepted in the market place of ideas”. I also quoted US v. Bustos where the Court said that free expression is “the scalpel against government abscesses” and that the wound for hurt feelings for government officials is the “balm of a clear conscience”.
Nope, we do not know how the Court will decide the case. Nonetheless, I ended my day happy since it was a day spent defending a very important freedom.
Here’s my choice for the top ten most important developments for Human Rights in the Philippines for 2012:
1. Passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law. Unfortunately, the passage of this law was overshadowed by the passage of the Reproductive Health Law. I say unfortunate because unlike the RH Law which in jurisprudence says is a penumbra of the due process clause, the crime of “desperacidos”, which unlike violations of international humanitarian law is not considered a crime under customary public international law.
This means that a domestic law is actually required to make enforced disappearances criminal. Now that we have this law, victims of desperacidos can actually file criminal charges for enforced disappearances without relying on kidnapping, if their loved ones survive; or murder, if their loved ones are found dead.
2. Passage of the Reproductive Health Law. The passage of this law has made jurisprudence on the right to privacy unnecessary. Prior to passage of the law, women’s rights advocates relied on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in arguing that failure of the state to provide family planning implements to those who cannot afford them is a form of discrimination.
They also relied on the US Supreme Court decision that states that the right to limit one’s family size is covered by the right to privacy and is a “penumbra” of the due process clause. With this domestic law in place, it has now become the business of government to ensure that its citizens can freely choose the size of their families.
3. Passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. This is in the list not because it promotes and protects human rights, but precisely because it will violate them. Unless declared unconstitutional, libel in cyberspace, which has already been pronounced as infringing on freedom of expression by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, will be even more severely punished under the new law. All future convicts will be guaranteed time in jail as the new penalties for cyber libel make them no longer eligible for parole.
Furthermore, the law’s so-called “take-down” provision, which enables the Justice secretary to unilaterally shut down Web sites, will enable the state to act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and executioner. It’s not on top of the list because of the temporary restraining order issued by the
Supreme Court enjoining the law’s implementation.
4. The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention. Our ratification of the convention literally enabled the treaty to come into effect. This is the first convention that seeks to standardize the terms and conditions of employment of an estimated 50 million to 100 million domestic workers worldwide.
Under this convention, domestic workers are entitled to protection available to other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, and minimum wage and social security coverage. The convention also obliges governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to prevent child labor in domestic work.
This will benefit at least 2 million domestic helpers locally, and millions more overseas. A domestic law that seeks to implement this convention was also passed by Congress this 2012.
5. The Philippines’ ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. This will enable private individuals now to submit their individual communications to the Committee Against Torture whenever they feel that the country has failed to protect and promote the absolute prohibition on torture. We are the first Southeast Asian country to have ratified this optional protocol.
6. The periodic review of the Philippines in the Human Rights Council. Done once every four years, it is described by the UN High Commissioner as such: “The [Universal Periodic Review] is a state-driven process, under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. As one of the main features of the Council, the UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.”
In its concluding observations, the Human Rights Council highlighted the need for the Philippines to take action against those who perpetrate violations to the right to life as evidenced by the high number of extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.
7. The periodic review of the Philippines in the UN Human Rights Committee. Also conducted every four years, this periodic review aims to “promote state compliance with the treaty principles and it should be an “honest appraisal of their conformity to the treaty obligations.” It is also a venue where state parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights report on “the measures [that the State has] adopted which give effect to the rights recognized” under the Covenant. In its concluding observations, the Committee asked the Philippine government to ensure
the binding and self-executory nature of the ICCPR and to inter-alia, also address the issues of libel as an infringement of freedom of expression, reparations of victims of trafficking, and also to end
impunity for those behind extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.
8. Five media killings in 2012. This highlights that impunity, particularly against media practitioners, continues.
9. Four victims of enforced disappearances. This highlights the need to implement the new anti-enforced disappearance law.
10. Failure of the Aquino administration to adopt human rights agenda. This last item highlights that while it has supported crucial legislation to protect and promote human rights, the absence of a national human rights agenda is proof that human rights is not a priority.