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The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines congratulates the High Level Panel (HLP) for the progress of their work in drafting the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the ASEAN Human Rights Body. The CHRP particularly lauds the efforts of the Philippine Panel Member for her strong representation of the Philippine position and her initiatives to get the voice of the civil society in shaping the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB)

The Commission likewise thanks the Philippine Panel Member for sharing with the various sectors of the Philippine society the first draft of the TOR presented to heads and ministers of the ASEAN and for clarifying the issues and the dynamics within the HLP. CHRP appreciates the directive of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers for the HLP to provide more protection functions for the AHRB.

As the national human rights institution in the country, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines has a big stake in the creation of the ASEAN Human Rights Body, thus, it has a responsibility in ensuring that the Terms of Reference provides for an effective human rights body.

Reviewing the present draft of the TOR, the Commission sees the need for more elaboration of the mandate, functions and relationships with other human rights bodies.

In this light, the CHRP submits the following comments and suggestions for consideration by the Philippine Panel member:

  1. Protection functions - In conformity with the proposals of the ASEAN NHRI Forum, we reiterate the following functions of the AHRB:

    1. To advise and assist ASEAN in formulating directives and procedures and recommend measures to be taken in addressing human rights issues;
    2. To receive, analyze, investigate, and take action on complaint on alleged violations of human rights by any person or group of persons, or any non-governmental entity legally recognized in one or more member states of the (AHRB). The (AHRB) shall only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted according to the generally recognized rule of international law; and,
    3. To monitor the implementation of international human rights obligations and the respective treaty bodies recommendations at national leve1 of ASEAN member states.
  2. Recognition of existing national human rights institutions in the four countries of ASEAN and their important role in the protection and promotion of human rights. The AHRB cannot work in isolation from the existing NHRIs and future NHRIs (such as in Cambodia). Particularly in the above proposed protection functions, the existence of a national human rights Institution in four member-states of ASEAN should not be ignored, but should be emphasized as they have complementary roles in promotion and protection of human rights in the region. Thus, it is also important to define the relationship of the AHRB and the NHRI and a separate provision in Section 6.7 is proposed to read as follows:

    The Relationship between AHRB and the NHRIs

    In member states where there are existing national human rights institutions, the AHRB should work in partnership with such NHRIs, particularly in monitoring human rights situations and treaty compliance at the national level. In addition, the AHRB should coordinate with and involve the NHRIs in its activities at the national level.
  3. Relationship of AHRB with the UN human rights protection system - In the same manner, the AHRB cannot confine its work within the region, but should operate within the framework of the United Nations human rights system, having invoked in the guiding principles upholding the Charter of the United Nations and International law, including international humanitarian law. The AHRB should relate with the relevant UN Bodies and a separate provision should be added as follows:

    The AHRB shall cooperate with the various human rights bodies and organs of the United Nations, in particular, the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the treaty monitoring bodies; and the Special Rapporteurs.