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Arroyo wants ‘defense fund’ for kids

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Issues AO on protection of human rights

By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:37:00 12/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday signed an order for all government agencies to strengthen their efforts to uphold human rights and, at the same time, ordered the social welfare department to set up a “defense fund” for children.

Under Administrative Order 249, all government agencies and local government units were directed to “strengthen and ensure compliance to their existing policies, plans, and programs as they would enhance government’s overall effort in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

“We are committed to further refining our procedures for the promotion and protection of human rights. That’s why, to that end today, I signed an administrative further strengthening government policies and programs for human rights,” Arroyo said in a speech during the 60th anniversary commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in Malacañang.

Arroyo also urged the nation to pool its efforts to protect the rights of children, who she said comprise a “precious, valuable but vulnerable sector” as she expressed concern over the alleged fielding by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) of minors in combat, and the welfare of children displaced by the fighting between security forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the south.

“To move the enhancement of children’s rights to a higher level, I talked to the secretary of social welfare this morning, and I said I’m directing her and the council for the welfare of children to [work on] the pooling of a children’s defense fund which shall document and help prosecute cases of child abuse and exploitation everywhere,” she said.

Specific orders were also given to:

• The Department of Justice to exhaust all legal means to resolve human rights cases and implement an updated comprehensive legal education campaign;

The Departments of National Defense (DND) and Interior and Local Government (DILG) to enhance human rights training for their personnel, and ensure the protection of the rights of persons displaced by their operations;

• The DILG to spearhead the capability-building for human rights of local government units;

• The Department of Education (DepEd) to establish centers for human rights education in public schools as well as assess the implementation of its human rights education exemplars.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima, reporting during the same event on the human rights situation in the country, said the year “was marked with triumphs and challenges” with “the right to life remains at the forefront,” referring to the continued spate of extrajudicial killings.

She cited the murder of 10 persons during the robbing of the Rizal Commercial and Banking Corp. branch in Cabuyao, Laguna, and the subsequent deaths of what authorities described as suspects in a supposed shootout in Batangas province but which relatives of the fatalities insist was a rubout.

De Lima also cited the disappearances of activist Jonas Burgos and University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, who the military is accused of abducting.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called “not fair” the statement of Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, calling the human rights situation in the country a source of “shame and embarrassment.”

“I think it’s not fair really to be too general to say that human rights violations are very rampant, which [they are] not; and we are doing something about it, that’s the important thing,” he said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-12-10T10:06:08+00:00UTC12bUTCWed, 10 Dec 2008 10:06:08 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am12

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