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Philippine News Digest 101

February 19, 2003 · 

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Contents:
-Senate slams House for slow action on medicine bill
-UN official in RP to check on rights of indigenous tribes
-RP human rights situation ‘tragic’ — UN rapporteur

Senate slams House for slow action on medicine bill
by: – Christina Mendez
The Philippine STAR
02/22/07

Senators have criticized their counterparts in the lower house for failing to pass during the two-day special session a Palace-certified measure that aimed to lower the prices of vital medicines.

Senate president Manuel Villar said the lawmakers might have caved in to pressures from giant pharmaceutical companies which were lobbying against the passage of the measure originally contained in Senate Bill 2263.

Authored by Sen. Manuel Roxas III, the bill seeks to amend the International Property Code to allow the parallel importation of patented drugs, the early development of patented medicines, and the exemption of government medicine importation, manufacture, sale, or distribution from a host of restrictions.

It also seeks to prohibit the issuance of another patent for new uses of a substance that has already been patented.

“I think there were pressures from foreign manufacturers, and many got pressured,” Villar told The STAR shortly before the adjournment of the two-day special session.

“This is a sad day for all Filipinos especially our senior citizens who were banking on the passage of this bill to bring down the cost of medicines,” Roxas said.

Roxas said he was disappointed that the lower house gave more importance to the bill extending the franchise of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. or Pagcor.

Roxas’ bill was certified as urgent by President Arroyo, passed on third and final reading by the Senate, and calendared for the special session as a vital measure.

“All it needed was the approval of the House majority. Instead, a bill extending the franchise of Pagcor was passed,” he said.

UN official in RP to check on rights of indigenous tribes
By EDMER F. PANESA
Manila Bulletin
02/04/07

A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur is in the Philippines to check on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples in the country.

Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, a Mexican researcher who reports to the UN Commission on Human Rights, arrived in the country last Friday. Besides the issue of human rights violations, Stavenhagen will also see if the government heeded the recommendations in his report issued after his first mission to the Philippines in December, 2002.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and other activist lawmakers grabbed the chance to inform Stavenhagen of the failure of MalacaƱang and Congress to consider his recommendations.

When they first met Stavenhagen at the SEAMEO INNOTECH compound in Quezon City, Ocampo and his group chided the House and the Palace over inaction on urgent measures on indigenous people?s rights.

Ocampo also reported to Stavenhagen the status of Bayan Muna-initiated legislative measures in the House of Representatives in response to recommendations he made.

“Of the one bill and 17 resolutions Bayan Muna proposed to address indigenous people?s human rights and fundamental freedoms, the House acted only on hree resolutions and none of them have been adopted even on the committee level,” said Ocampo.

The Bayan Muna measures include House Bill 3846 repealing the Philippine Mining Act of 1995; and House Resolutions 198, 408, 409, 412, 426, 438, 440, 442, 481, 838, 988, 991, 1006, 1340, 1409, 3846 and 4566.

“These were meant to address human rights violations and other atrocities against indigenous peoples, land rights issues, demilitarization of indigenous people?s rights, and amendment and revision of anti-indigenous people?s laws, all of which were among Stevanhagen?s recommendations to the Philippines.”

Ocampo said the failure of the House to respond to the 2003 recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Commission on indigenous people is largely due to the lack of prioritization, policy, and inaction of the Executive Branch of the government.

In the report on his 2002 visit to the country, Stevanhagen said “communities resist development projects that destroy their traditional economy, community structures, and cultural values, a process described as? Development aggression?

RP human rights situation ‘tragic’ — UN rapporteur
by: Desiree Caluza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
02/17/07

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — United Nations special rapporteur Philip Alston described as “tragic” the cases of human rights violations presented to him during his visit to the Philippines.

“I had a very rough time just listening to the?stories,” Alston told families of victims of human rights violations, activists, and indigenous people in the Cordillera on Friday.

He said he would do everything he could to bring to the attention of the international community the cases of human rights abuses in the country and will ask the international peoples tribunal in The Netherlands to look into the situation in the Philippines.

“What I said to the government and to others I have spoken to is my report will not be worth anything unless it means something to the people of the Philippines, particularly to those who can make things happen,” he said.

“I cannot make it happen, all I can do is put up a set of recommendations,” he added.

Alston said there should be attempts to pressure the government to stop extra-judicial killings in the country.

During his visit here, Alston and his team interviewed the victims and witnesses of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings. They also interviewed the victims’ relatives and met members of Hustisya (Justice), Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA). The groups said they have documented at least 20 incidents of murder that victimized indigenous peoples since 2001.

“We hope that Mr. Alston will come up with a real view and a credible assessment of extra-judicial killings which he will present to United Nations,” said Dr. Constancio Claver, Bayan Muna (People First) -Kalinga chairman and spokesperson of Hustisya.

Claver, a survivor of an assassination attempt in July last year, said his group asked Alston to determine if the Philippine government respected human rights in its Oplan Bantay anti-insurgency campaign.

The group said the campaign was one of the reasons killings of activists escalated in the country. Claver told Alston that the critics of the military and the Arroyo administration were often tagged as “terrorists.” He said the label gave the government license to target legal leftist organizations under Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan Guard Freedom).

Claver said Alston noted his case because of the police’s supposed involvement in the attack, where his wife, Alice Omengan-Claver, was killed.

The Commission on Human Rights in the Cordillera confirmed the claims of human rights advocates and the victims’ families that some soldiers and policemen were suspected to be behind the killings.

Russell Ma-ao, CHR Cordillera director, said her office recorded six cases of extra-judicial and political killings in the region since 2006.

She said cases of human rights violations reported to her office often involved soldiers as suspects. “We just hope that we will be given the mandate to prosecute and not just to investigate so that we will not be accused of not taking any action,” she said. [End]

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