By Darryl John Esguerra

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (PNA File Photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ordered the creation of a special committee in a bid to further champion human rights protection in the country.

Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin signed Administrative Order (AO) No. 22 on May 8, creating a “Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination” to enhance mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

The special body will be chaired by the Executive Secretary and co-chaired by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretaries as members.

In issuing the order, the President emphasized the significance of maintaining and intensifying the accomplishments of the United Nations for the Joint Program on Human Rights (UNJP) through the institutionalization of a strong and healthy multi-stakeholder process for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The UNJP is set to expire on July 31.

“It is imperative to sustain and enhance the accomplishments under the UNJP, which is set to expire on 31 July 2024, through the institutionalization of a robust multi-stakeholder process for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines,” the President said in his order.

 The Philippines partnered with the UNJP to engage in capacity-building and technical cooperation in the areas of law enforcement, criminal justice, and policy-making in the Philippines.

Aside from the UNJP, the country is also a State Party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat will serve as the Secretariat of the special committee, which is mandated to conduct investigation; data-gathering on alleged human rights violations by law enforcement agencies; expanding civic space and engagement with the private sector; National Mechanisms for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up; and human rights-based approach towards drug control.

It is also tasked to implement human rights-based approach towards counter-terrorism.

Likewise, the special committee is also tasked to “monitor and ensure effective implementation of government policies and programs aimed at upholding and protecting human rights of persons deprived of liberty, particularly in guaranteeing that no one is subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of punishment.”

 Government agencies are directed to render full support and assistance to the special human rights body and to ensure the implementation of AO 22. (PNA)