DRAFTING A NATIONAL LAW ON INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT:THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE
Maria Cecilia Kristina M. Africa
I.I.Internal Displacement in the PhilippinesThe United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement defines“internally displaced persons” as those persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitualresidence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armedconflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or naturalor human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border. In the Philippines, more than 151,812 families or approximately 759,060 persons, from years 2002-2005, and an estimated total of 413,983 or 1,934,075 people in the first semester of 2006 affected by the adverse consequences of internal displacement. This statistic has placed the Philippines as one of the topforty (40) countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons withinits territory. In Southeast Asia alone, the Philippines ranks third behind Burmaand Indonesia as countries with the largest number of internally displaced.Despite the widespread occurrence of internal displacement in the country and therest of the world, governments worldwide fail to recognize internal displacementas a pressing problem that requires an urgent solution. The Philippines is noexception. Internal displacement caused by varied reasons, natural and manmadedisasters, development aggression and armed conflict plague Filipinos today.To deal with internal displacement on the large scale, the United NationsRepresentative to the Secretary General for Internally Displaced Persons, together with the Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement, had developed aframework for national responsibility to serve as a guide to governments.
The Framework for National Responsibility
Governments have a responsibility to protect and uphold the human rightsof their citizens, most especially those who are in the midst of natural disasters,armed conflict and the like. As these occurrences are difficult to foresee or prevent, it is incumbent upon these governments to create an environment thatwill prevent conditions that may compel these people to leave their homes. If internal displacement cannot be avoided, its adverse effects must be curbed.1
The author was, at the time of the writing of this article, a legislative officer in the Office of Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., then incumbent Minority Leader of the Senate of the Philippines. Ms. Africa, alawyer admitted to the Philippine Bar, is an advocate for IDP rights and had been very active in pursuingthe legislative initiative to advance IDP rights in the Philippines. This paper was submitted for distributionduring the Consultative Meeting of Experts for the Strengthening of Domestic Implementation of the UNGuiding Principles for Internal Displacement on September 2006, in Vienna, Austria.