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Drafting a National Law for Internal Displacement-The Philippine Experience

Drafting a National Law for Internal Displacement-The Philippine Experience

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Published by: michecesa on May 12, 2010
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09/26/2010

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DRAFTING A NATIONAL LAW ON INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT:THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE
Maria Cecilia Kristina M. Africa
1
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.
 
A preliminary step towards the implementation of the framework for national responsibility is raising national awareness of the problem of internaldisplacement. Before any government can prevent adverse effects thereof, theState must first recognize internal displacement as a national dilemma. To be ableto ascertain its extent, accurate data and information must be gathered, classifiedand analyzed closely. Each model of internal displacement is very specific for every country. Hence, a very detailed study is in order, for effective formulationof policies regarding internal displacement.When the problem of internal displacement had been sorted out, a nationalawareness program or campaign must be launched. The national government musttake the lead in this endeavor, coordinating closely with human rights institutions,international organizations and non-governmental organizations. In this process,training of accountable officials in government, law enforcement officers, policeand military alike, is vital in awareness raising. Training workshops on theGuiding Principles on Internal Displacement for these officials must be conductedas they will be the people who will directly implement these guidelines on theground, during internal displacement.The true manifestation of a government’s commitment to solve the problem of internal displacement is the enactment or establishment of a nationallegal framework recognizing the rights of IDPs. In most countries, such asUganda, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia and Peru, this national legalframework meant an adoption of the UN Guiding Principles on InternalDisplacement into domestic legislation. The national legal framework must becoupled with a national plan of action where national and local governmentinstitutions must be designated with their corresponding responsibilities. Propecoordination and monitoring among these institutions is likewise very importantin the implementation of this action plan, as more often than not, a multi-sectoralapproach is required to address the problem of internal displacement due to its far reaching repercussions. The active involvement of civil society and the IDPsthemselves shall produce a most effective plan of action.As a campaign to fight internal displacement is a wholistic effort, not onlyfrom the government but also from those directly affected, IDPs play a crucialrole in this framework. Extensive and regular consultations are non-negotiable inthe development of policies herein. Special concerns of internally displacedindigenous peoples, women and children must also be addressed, due to their unique situations.Among the role players in an intensified campaign in the battle againstdisplacement, an institutional focal point for IDPs is most important. It isimmaterial whether this focal point is to be newly established or it is an existingagency that will be designated additional functions. The focal point shall be thecentral agency that will coordinate all efforts for IDP protection, as well as handle
 
the resources allocated to address situations of internal displacement. Another duty of the focal point is to manage the influx of any foreign assistance that shall be extended by regional and international organizations. This is very importantsince most countries most affected by internal displacement are financially andlogistically unable to sustain operations to manage the effects of internaldisplacement.Another aspect of national responsibility with respect to internaldisplacement is the strengthening of human rights institutions. The creation of human rights friendly environment is anchored on a strong national human rightsinstitution. It shall be able to investigate and act on violations of human rights, ingeneral, and those committed against internally displaced persons. It must be ableto advise the government on the improvement of existing laws and thedevelopment of future legislations and policies on human rights protection andmore specifically, welfare of internally displaced persons.Finally, governments must likewise support durable solutions for IDPs.Mechanisms to ensure the safe return or relocation of these IDPs to their places of residence and livelihood must be put in place. IDPs, upon their permanentresettlement, should be eased back into society, by making employment andeducation opportunities available to them. They must also be protected fromdiscrimination as a result of their displacement. Ultimately, the government must be able to prevent causes that lead to internal displacement.II.II.History of Legislative Initiatives Towards the Protection of the Rights of Internally Displaced PersonsIn the Philippines, several legislative resolutions have been adopted since2003, advocating the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles onInternal Displacement. This was initiated by the Resolution No. 2003-01, adopted by the Presidential Human Rights Committee Department of Justice Manila,entitled “Urging Strict Observance of the UN Guiding Principles on InternalDisplacement and Exhorting Congress to Pass a Law for the Protection of theInternally Displaced.”During the Twelfth Congress, Senate Resolution No. 289 was adopted,entitled “A Resolution Urging the Philippine Government to Adopt in Full the UNGuiding Principles on Internal Displacement as a Concrete Step in the Promotionand Protection of Human Rights in the Country.”A similar resolution was adopted
in toto
, in the House of Representatives,House Resolution No. 449.III.III.Proposed Legislation on Internal Displacement: Salient Features

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