The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has vowed to continue protecting human rights and the rule of law in its operations especially in the time of a global health crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement Sunday, Gen. Gilbert Gapay, AFP chief of staff, assured the public that the military “will stand up for human rights and continue to stand by its principles, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic” in the performance of their mandate as protector of the people and the State.
“Security is a shared responsibility. With every Filipino’s cooperation, we can all be human rights advocates and peace builders. Let us all ensure that the tenets of Universal Declaration of Human Rights are upheld and respected,” Gapay said.
The same commitment was stressed by Col. Joel Alejandro Nacnac, chief of the AFP Human Rights Office, during the online 2020 Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Summit last Friday.
Led by the AFP Human Rights Office, the summit was attended by over 300 military officers and enlisted personnel from different military units and offices nationwide as part of the commemoration of the Human Rights Day last Thursday.
“The AFP shall continue to adhere to human rights, IHL, and the rule of law. As participants of this summit, we are expected to guard these rights in our communities and areas of responsibility. We have to study further the different laws so that all of us will be equipped and capacitated to act as human rights officers,” Nacnac told the participants.
The military invited several speakers who discussed how the soldiers can best protect human rights and uphold the rule of law in its operations, and to further increase awareness and ensure compliance in the International Humanitarian Law among its personnel.
Among the speakers were lawyer Francis Tom Temprosa, director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Human Rights Education and Promotion Office; Rosemarie Trajano, secretary general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates; Ricardo Lucero Jr. of the International Committee of the Red Cross; and lawyer Randy Escolango, deputy commissioner of the Insurance Commission.
CHR Executive Director Jacqueline Ann de Guia praised the AFP Human Rights Office for taking steps to educate its personnel about the importance of protecting human rights and following the IHL in the conduct of military operations.
“As public servants, we have voluntarily taken the duty to put the rights of others before us. We expect everyone’s commitment in ensuring that their messages not merely remain as words, that it should resonate with us and live with us,” De Guia said.