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Community-based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection

The “Community-based Dialogue Sessions on Human Rights Promotion and Protection between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, and Civil Society Organizations and Local Communities”  is a project cooperation among the Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office (AFP HRO) and Offices of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations (AFP J7), for Operations (J3), and for Education and Training (J8); the Philippine National Police Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP HRAO) and Directorate for Human Resource and Doctrine Development-Training Service/Regional Specialized Training Units  (DHRDD-TS/RSTUs), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), the Alternative Law Groups (ALG) and the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) of Germany. 

The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the improvement of the Human Rights situation in the Philippines primarily through the enhancement of the relationship between the AFP and PNP, on one hand, and local communities and civil society organizations, on the other hand, in the common effort to promote human rights.  The specific objective of the project is to help create venues for the AFP and the PNP on one hand, primarily through their respective human rights offices and training units, and civil society organizations on the other hand, to collectively discuss the issue of human rights promotion and protection, and how cooperative efforts for on-going and future actions toward human rights promotion and protection can be maximized.   

The project has completed three phases and is now on the second year (2018) of its fourth phase.  The project was launched in 2008, at a time when the Philippines got the attention of the international community as a result of the alarming rise in unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

After nine years of implementation, the project shall continue its framework and essential components, but with a renewed strategic direction that is envisioned to sustain its gains and achieve the goal of institutionalizing the project (especially at the local level).  There is a need for the project to adapt to the changing landscape, while continuing to address the persistent issues and challenges.  With the very fruitful experience of the past nine years, and with the benefit of lessons learned from previous engagements and activities, the project shall hold on to its gains and take a strategic direction that is compelled by the current situation.

 

Strengthening Partnerships, Deepening Dialogues

A major achievement of the project is the partnership that it has cultivated not only among the project partners, but among the different stakeholders, especially in local areas.  Indeed, the level of engagement between the security forces, on one hand, and the Commission on Human Rights and the CSOs, on the other hand, has been very dynamic. The project shall harness this partnership that has been built through years of dialogue and cooperation.  It is this partnership that sets the project apart from other similar human rights initiatives.  This continuing partnership, in itself, becomes a platform for many collaborative efforts among the stakeholders, both within the project, and through related initiatives. 

The project partners still see the value of working within the framework of dialogues.  This entails the constructive discussion of human rights issues, policy gaps and policy reforms, aimed at the effective resolution of issues.  The next phase will still utilize community-based dialogues as its main mechanism but will complement this with top- or regional-level policy dialogues, which will be venues for the formulation of concrete policy issuances, and also for the monitoring and resolution of issues and cases on the ground.    

In view of the urgent need to address conflicts concerning economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), particularly, the involvement of military and police personnel in these disputes, the dialogues shall progress from its former special focus on civil and political rights (detention, arrests, torture, etc.) to an expanded coverage that will give emphasis to ESCR.  The objective will not only be to help the police and military officers, as well as civilian communities, understand ESCR, but also, and more importantly, to address the issues on the involvement of the police and military in ESCR-related conflicts.

 

Institutionalizing Local Cooperation and Action

Consistent with the objective of institutionalizing the gains of the project, starting in 2017, the project will activate the local multi-sectoral networks of human rights officers from the CHR, AFP and PNP, and human rights defenders from the CSOs.  The objective will be to institutionalize the community-based dialogue mechanism at the local level (which can serve as early warning system for prevention of HRVs, quick reaction teams, monitoring/resolution of cases, training, etc.).  The CHR Regional Office will be the convenor of the local multi-sectoral network, with the designated human rights and/or training officers of the AFP and PNP in the local areas, and the volunteer human rights defenders from CSOs as network members.

With the issuance in 2015 of the CHR resolution mandating the CHR Regional Offices to convene Community-Based Dialogues (CBD), to co-organize multi-sectoral Human Rights education and training activities, and to coordinate Regional Level Policy Dialogues, CHR Regional Offices are expected to play a more active role, and more robust localization and institutionalization of the dialogues are foreseeable.  What the project needs to do is to ensure that the members of the local multi-sectoral networks have the necessary capacity to do their expected tasks.  Towards achieving the goal of institutionalizing the CBD mechanism at the local level, closer cooperation shall be pursued with the Regional Peace and Order Councils (RPOCs) and Regional Development Councils (RDCs) as well as relevant government agencies. 

Beginning with regional-level workshops that will gather the local stakeholders from the CHR, AFP, PNP and CSOs, the project shall provide the necessary support for strengthening the local coordination mechanism.  After nine years, the different regions are now ready to further harness the cooperation and coordination that had been developed through the past project activities.  The project needs to strengthen the local coordination mechanism and this will be done by convening Institutionalization-Localization workshops.  The workshops will include an initial scanning of the various social justice and human rights issues in each area, which will guide the project implementation for the new phase, as well as formulation of an appropriate monitoring and evaluation system.

There will be workshop sessions held in focus areas, covering different areas that are grouped based on the formation of the AFP, i.e., the location of the military divisions, brigades and battalions (since the CHR, PNP and CSOs are present in all regions).  Each session will gather around 50-60 participants (including members of the Project Steering Committee), composed of 25-30 military officers, 9-18 police officers (3-4 from each region), 6 from the CHR (2-3 per region), 8 from CSOs and the rest from the other stakeholders (It is expected that the project shall expand the stakeholders at the local level to involve or include the officers of the Department of the Interior and Local Government [DILG], the National Economic and Development Authority [NEDA], the Peace and Order Councils [POCs], the Barangay Human Rights Action Centers [BHRAC] and other local actors).  The military will be the biggest group since the project wants to reach all human rights, CMO or training officers of the divisions, brigades and battalions, as much as possible.

During the workshops, the different regional core groups are expected to discuss and finalize their respective work-plans on how they can utilize the multi-sectoral network to address human rights issues and continue to promote human rights in their respective areas. 

With improved relationships between the security forces and civilian communities, and with local cooperative mechanisms in place, the dialogues are expected to deepen, and result in actual resolution of issues, as far as the roles of the police and military personnel in these ESCR-related conflicts are concerned.