DOJ and PCW: hold accountability and make women’s rights real

Manila – To end discrimination against women and to promote and recognize their rights, the Philippine Commission on Women launched the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) on July 8 at Manila Peninsula.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said that DOJ and the PCW share the common goal of imparting meaningful change on gender equality and human rights. De Lima emphasized the importance of gauging “actual changes and improvements… instead of mere rhetoric” during the launch of the MCW IRR and the 3rd Asia Pacific Human Development Report (APHDR). PCW Chairperson Myrna T. Yao, meanwhile, said that the event is a “big step in making more women and men get actively involved in overcoming gender inequalities.”

De Lima added that the rights guaranteed by the law are “critical for the welfare of far too many women” that weak operationalization of the law is out of the question. Because the MCW and its IRR “embody opportunities which cannot be wasted and a potential for improvement which cannot simply be allowed to dissipate,” accountability should be held, she added.

Citing the political killings of media practitioners and civilians as an abomination and affront to humanity and the rule of law, De Lima stressed that lack of accountability helped make the last nine years “fairly dismal from a human rights standpoint.” The lack of accountability entails “less impetus for change”. In addition, people are likely to believe that they “can get away with their past practices and not have to bear any costs.”

The recently launched MCW IRR provides the guidelines for policy and decision makers, law enforcement, civil society and other stakeholders. It brings greater specificity to the obligations under MCW and strengthens the government’s ability to identify breaches and hold individuals accountable.  Yao said denying women of their rights stipulated in the law is a direct insult to and a violation of their human rights.

De Lima hoped that the knowledge learned from the MCW IRR, the APHDR, and the panel discussions will allow Filipinos to “make more informed decisions, craft more helpful policy initiatives and programs, and more effectively chart a way forward.”  She said that meaningful change can only be realized if a “collective moral compass” is embraced by the people, advocates, the government, and the people the law seeks to protect. With the change in the administration, De Lima sees the country in an opportune position to make accountability real.

The challenges to improve the conditions to which women are “routinely subjected” can be made not just by changing laws or ratifying treaties. De Lima added that we must work “to change the hearts and minds of individuals, and shatter the myths and prejudices which continue to pervade in many societies and groups. There is a social fabric that must be re-sewn and re-threaded… in order to accommodate the changes in human rights thought embodied in a new legislation.”

“The IRR is a mere issuance of government, which in turn represents the will of the people. If we ourselves, under the common hat we wear as ordinary citizens do not embrace forward progress in human rights, then there is no government machinery that can propel any human rights agenda forward, and there can be no issuance, statute, rule or governmental fiat that transcends the paper upon which it is written,” De Lima asserted. She added that the power emanates from the people, “whether advocates, victims, or public officers, collectively as upstanding citizens”, who are the “true protector of all human rights.”

Yao urged the concerned agencies directed by MCW and other pertinent offices to join PCW in striving to make women’s rights real. “The revitalized PCW is ready to raise the bar higher in reshaping the contours of Philippine bureaucracy and gender relations in the society,” Yao added.