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Amnesty International says new rights body unnecessary, won't fix crisis

MANILA, Philippines — Amnesty International Philippines criticized the newly-formed special committee on human rights coordination as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy as it urged the Marcos government to prioritize genuine solutions to the country's human rights issues.

Malacañang issued last week Administrative Order (AO) 22 creating an inter-agency body tasked to enhance mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The special committee, a body under the Presidential Human Rights Committee, is chaired by the executive secretary and co-chaired by the justice secretary.

Amnesty International Philippines Section Director Butch Olano said that while AO 22 is a "step in the right direction," the move "doesn't really make any impact in actual human rights cases."

"It is a superfluous addition to an already convoluted justice system in the country. Addressing a human rights crisis does not need window-dressing, true change needs to be more than just a facelift," Olano said.

Olano noted the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) can handle what the new body wants to achieve. He added the Presidential Human Rights Committee, which advises the president on human rights concerns in the country, only needs new and competent personnel.

The special human rights committee aims to improve human rights investigations and accountability, collect data on violations by law enforcement agencies and work with civil society.

The body also seeks to facilitate access to redress mechanisms by victims of human rights violations, protect the rights of persons deprived of liberty and prevent torture.

"Marcos cannot continue to mislead the country with a mere show of force when accountability for violations has been scarce, and human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily arrested and charged, disappeared, or killed," Olano said.

"The government doesn't need a 'super body' to champion human rights. What it needs to do is accept and implement the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) , the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion and get serious about returning to the International Criminal Court," he added.

Human rights