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Message of

Chairperson Loretta Ann P. Rosales

in the

Launching
of the
Muslim Community Youth Paralegal Program of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos

April 15, 2011
Sulo Hotel, Quezon City

Good afternoon.

The Commission on Human Rights is pleased to take part in this multi-stakeholder initiative to empower Muslim Filipino communities to claim their rights in the context of law enforcement and security operations. This is certainly a laudable initiative considering the marginalization suffered by our Muslim sisters and brothers at the hands of abusive police officers.

Several weeks ago, in the course of my visit to an alleged high-ranking Communist Party leader in Camp Crame, I came across several Muslim detainees. They have been languishing in the custodial center despite rulings dismissing the cases filed against them. Their petitions to the PNP to release were routinely being ignored. I took the initiative of getting basic information and directed the Legal and Investigation Office of the CHR to provide all appropriate measures for the protection of their rights. It was around this time that Commissioner Badiri approached us with his brilliant idea for addressing such structural gaps through a concrete, community-based initiative.

Grassroots insecurity is as much a human rights violation as arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances are. This is a systemic problem that cannot be addressed by the Commission on Human Rights alone, nor by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos acting independently of other government agencies and civil society institutions. The problem is systemic, rooted out of centuries of taught prejudices reinforced by the hawkish ignorance arising out of the 'global war on terror' mindset.

In Barangay Culiat, Quezon City for instance, raids and arrests, often without judicial warrants, are commonplace. In the few instances where such warrants have actually been issued, legal shortcuts abound in the process of their issuance as well as in their service. It is very unfortunate that in the midst of urban life, far removed from the conflicts in Mindanao, basic rights are still prone to violations or abuses. Muslim families who have left their homelands in the South in search of tranquility find themselves in a very insecure situation.

The wave of popular revolutions in the Middle East is proof of the universality of human rights and democratic ideals. The sacrifices of the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya reverberate in the popular struggles here in the Philippines – against colonialism, against dictatorship, against cultural and racial discrimination. The seed that we are planting today, in the form of the Muslim Community Youth Paralegal Program, is never too far removed from the common aspiration of all peoples in the world for a life of dignity, humanity, progress and security.

Thus, it is my fervent hope that this initiative would soon evolve sooner than later into a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder convergence program that would address discrimination against Muslim Filipinos from various fronts; from legal loopholes to procedural abuses and corrupt practices.

May God sustain us all as we work together for peaceful communities firmly anchored on human rights.

Thank you.