CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The Armed Forces of the Philippines, through the initiative of the AFP Human Rights Office (AFPHRO) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday, March 12 at the AFP Commissioned Officer’s Club, Camp Aguinaldo.
The MOU was signed by AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana and CHR Chairperson Atty. Jose Luis Martin Gascon. They were joined in the ceremony by the Chief, AFP Human Rights Office Colonel Joel Alejandro Nacnac and CHR Executive Director Atty. Jacqueline Anne De Guia.
Also in attendance were Mr. Gustavo Gonzales, UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit, AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant Erickson Gloria and The Deputy Chief of Staff, AFP Vice Admiral Erick Kagaoan.
“We in the AFP will always endeavor to seek the most effective ways to address the gaps, in particular on observance of Human Rights of our organization. I am certain that by fostering close coordination, which involves a mutual exchange of knowledge on the intricacies and the proper interpretation of human rights and the best ways to promote them, there is surely much to learn from our counterparts from the CHR,” Lieutenant General Sobejana said.
Under the memorandum, the AFP and the CHR agreed to work together in the aspects of education, training and advocacy. They will also collaborate in monitoring mechanisms and data sharing of incidents/cases of human rights violations.
“It is with deep appreciation and renewed hope that we welcome the signing of the memorandum of agreement with the AFP. Indeed, as duty bearers, we have the obligation to our citizens to uphold and protect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. This MOU will strengthen our respective institutions’ efforts in providing protection for the rights of all people in our country,” Atty. Gascon said.
Both parties shall also participate in dialogues, focus group discussions and other forms of engagements or cooperation affecting human rights issues. They will also assist each other in clearance processes.
“The MOU will foster increased education and training, information sharing and referral of cases, improved monitoring and reporting of incidents, and will further solidify the coordination over reports of alleged human rights violations. The cooperation between the AFP and the CHR on the latter’s Clearance System will surely benefit military officers who will undergo confirmation before the Commission on Appointments,” Colonel Nacnac said.
In 2012, the AFP through AFPHRO and its Major Service Commanders issued the La Breza Declaration on Human Rights Cooperation which confirmed the continuing commitment of the AFP to protect human rights. This year’s MOU shall reinforce and complement the La Breza Declaration to institutionalize the processes between the AFP and the CHR.
Prior to the MOU signing, both parties have already worked together in numerous activities such as joint conduct of human rights seminars, periodic reviews of AFP Curriculum, and top-level policy dialogues to clarify military operations. These activities emphasized the need to strengthen documentation, verification, and cross-validation of complaints of human rights violations.
“As we take pride in carrying our mandate as defenders of our country and people, we welcome with open arms any form of collaborative partnership that would be beneficial in the fulfilment of the AFP’s mission of protecting the people and securing the state,” said Lieutenant General Sobejana.
The AFP and CHR shall be committed to the agreement and its provisions will remain in full effect for a period of three (3) years from the time of signing, subject to renewal, and approval of the Secretary of National Defense./// (Photos by SN1 Viluan PN/PAOAFP)