The right to suffrage is one prized right. Election day is one instance when in one day ALL becomes equal before the law – regardless of sex, religious, political and other beliefs, property, racial background, status, literacy and education. This is the time when everyone, and each one, participate in equal share and weight, that is, with one vote.
The right to suffrage is the spirit and essence of democracy and republicanism. In a country with a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” election becomes so vital and momentous that it gives life to the government itself.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution is explicit,
“The Philippines is a republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”
Universally, the right to take part in government is proclaimed and guaranteed by the International Bill of Human Rights and other international conventions. Countries and peoples across the globe have recognized that free and fair elections are a crucial point on the continuum of democratization and an imperative means of giving voice to the will of the people, which is the basis of government authority itself.
Hence, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights provides that,
“The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
In the same vein, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights states that,
“Every citizen shall have the right and opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
The Commission on Human Rights, as a national human rights institution, is mindful of the significance and impact on Philippine life and culture of the forthcoming electoral exercise. As such, the Commission is inspired, pursuant to its mandate, to issue this advisory.
The Philippines has been both a witness and victim to the problematic, perverted and violent exercise of elections in the country. It is marred with irregularities, fraud, terrorism, vote-buying, ballot snatching, bribery and cheating. These are obstacles in reflecting the true will of the electorate. It affects the credibility of the whole democratic process and mocks at this sacred right to suffrage.
As an independent national institution, the Commission’s hands are tied into entering into purely political affairs. Nevertheless, this is not a deterrent for the Commission to ensure that the right to suffrage will be respected and given full worth. In this regard, the Commission believes in the advantage, significance and necessity of a meaningful voters education. In this day and age, information as a tool is invaluable.
Implicit in the concept of free choice is that of an informed choice. As has been seen, if elections are to be genuine, they must reflect the political will of the people. Voters can neither formulate nor express that will without access to information about the candidates, the parties and the process. Well-organized, non-partisan voter information programmes and unhindered distribution of political propaganda are therefore critical elements of genuine elections.
Voter education and registration campaigns are necessary to ensure the effective exercise of article 25 rights of the ICCPR by an informed community. For without a well-informed electorate, it is impossible to guarantee that elections genuinely reflect the will of the people.
Thus, the Commission, pursuant to its mandate to promote the primacy of human rights through education and information, calls on the following:
1. All CHRP Central and Regional Offices, Government Agencies and Institutions, the COMELEC, State Colleges and Universities, Civil Society Organizations, Private Organizations, and even informal organized groups advocating free and fair elections, in the conduct of electoral education, to adhere to the United Nations Standards on Human Rights and Elections, to wit:
2. The Regional Offices of the CHRP to monitor compliance to this advisory by those identified in paragraph 1.
The Commission on Human Rights joins the whole Filipino nation to watch, guard, and ensure that the coming elections will be free, fair, honest, peaceful, orderly, genuine and credible.
Done in Quezon City on the 3 rd day of May 2007.
The Commission, in conducting the inquiry, had two primordial objectives: first, to locate Joseph Jonas Burgos, and second, to call out all the concerned agencies of the Government to help the Commission on Human Rights in this undertaking. In this regard, the Commission issued a subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum, dated 31 May 2007, to Major Gen. Delfin R. Bangit, Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), ordering him to appear and testify before the Commission on 05 June 2007, 9:00 AM; and to bring all the necessary documents including reports on the action taken by his office in connection with the alleged disappearance. The ISAFP, one of the principal intelligence networks of the Government, has all the intelligence capability and resources to locate Jonas Burgos.
Gen. Bangit failed to appear on the date abovementioned. However, on 08 June 2007, he came to the Commission for a courtesy call, and apologized for his absence in the June 05 hearing; and confirmed his presence for the next hearing. To give the Burgos family the opportunity to observe the proceedings and participate therein, the Commission, thru Commissioner Dominador N. Calamba II, sent a letter, dated June 13, 2007, to Mrs. Editha Burgos. In the same letter, the Commission invited her for a meeting with the Commissioners on June 15, 2007, the date of the inquiry.
On 15 June 2007, Gen. Bangit and Mrs. Burgos appeared before the Commission for the scheduled inquiry, but the latter refused to testify. During the inquiry, Atty. Ricardo Fernandez, counsel of Mrs. Burgos, asserted that her client would testify only after the military officers shall have given their testimonies. Consequently, Mrs. Burgos did not take the witness stand. On the other hand, Gen. Bangit requested a meeting with Mrs. Burgos, but the latter refused.
The Commission wants the public and the Burgos family to know that the closure of the public inquiry does not necessarily mean the closure of its investigation to locate Jonas. It is only the proceedings to locate Jonas Burgos (public inquiry) that is terminated. It is in this respect that we call, once again, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to locate Jonas Burgos, despite Mrs. Editha Burgos’ non-cooperation.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Commission resolves, as it is hereby RESOLVED, that the proceedings in the Commission be temporarily closed.
Issued this 11 th day of September 2007, Quezon City, Philippines.
Now, finding that the Philippine National Police, through herein respondents, did not comply with the clear provisions of Batas Pambansa 880 and related Rules, the Commission on Human Rights hereby resolve, in unqualified terms, that the Philippine National Police should be held liable for the human rights violations committed.
Firstly, the PNP’s actions and lack of preparation contravene state obligations which the Philippine Government itself unequivocally committed to respect, protect and fulfill pursuant to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 21 of which provides, thus:
“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” (Article 21 of the ICCPR.)
Also, the actions by the PNP run counter to Article 20, paragraph 1, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which provides, thus:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.” ( Art. 20, par.1)
We give emphasis on the established doctrine that the rights of free expression, religion, free assembly and petition are not only civil rights but also political rights essential to man’s enjoyment of his life, his happiness and to his full and complete fulfillment. The citizen is accorded these rights so he can appeal to appropriate government officers or agencies for redress and protection as well as for the imposition of the lawful sanctions on erring public officers and employees. (Bernas, Constitutional Rights and Social Demands Part II, 1996 Edition)
The Commission finds that the PNP failed, as the agency mandated to protect the people’s rights, to uphold basic liberties in accordance with law. It also failed to give attention as to the safety and sufficiency of the means employed in the exercise of its duties and functions.
Clearly, the respondents violated international human rights instruments to which the Philippines is a state party specifically Art. 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Art. 20, par.1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is a universal customary law, in relation to Art. III Sec.4 of the 1987 Constitution, Sec. 11 of the Batas Pambansa 880 and Rule 21, Section 3 of the PNP Operational Procedures.
WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby resolves, based on the principle of command responsibility, and on the basis of glaring violations of the BP 880 as well as the provision of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which requires that “no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of the right to assembly other than those imposed in conformity with the law”, to endorse its findings to the Office of the Ombudsman for consideration in the criminal charges, pending before said office, against the respondents CPNP, PD Arturo Lomibao, Vidal Querol, in his capacity as Chief of the PNP National Capital Region, Pedro Bulaong, in his capacity as Chief of the Manila Police District and PSUPT Florencio Ortilla in his capacity as the Deputy Ground Commander of the 14 October 2005 incident which is the subject of this complaint. This resolution is also endorsed to the National Police Commission for consideration in the administrative charges against the Police Officers involved pending before said office.
Done this 27 th day of October 2006, Quezon City, Philippines.