MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to “foster close coordination and address gaps in the human rights situation in the country.”

Under the agreement, the two agencies will work together for human rights education, training, and advocacy, as well as collaborate in improving mechanisms and data sharing of cases of human rights violations. 

In a report by The Philippine Star, the MOA was signed by AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana and CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, joined by AFP Human Rights Office Chief Col. Joel Alejandro Nacnac and CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia. It will remain in effect for a period of three years “subject to the renewal and approval of the secretary of National Defense.”

“I am certain that by fostering close coordination, which involves a mutual knowledge on the intricacies and the proper interpretation of human rights and the best way to promote them, there is surely much to learn from our counterparts in the CHR,” Sobejana said in a statement.

Gascon said the MOA will strengthen the two agencies’ efforts to “protect the rights of the Filipino people.”

“It is with deep appreciation and renewed hope that we welcome the signing of the memorandum of agreement with the AFP. Indeed, as duty bearers, we have the obligation to our citizens to uphold and protect human rights and International Humanitarian Law. This MOU will strengthen our respective institutions’ efforts in providing protection for the rights of all people in our country,” Gascon said.

Under the new agreement, the agencies agreed to participate in dialogues, focus group discussions and other forms of engagements and cooperation over human rights issues.

“We in the AFP will always endeavor to seek the most effective ways to address the gaps, in particular on the observance of Human Rights of our organization. I am certain that by fostering close coordination, which involves a mutual exchange of knowledge on the intricacies and the proper interpretation of human rights and the best ways to promote them, there is surely much to learn from our counterparts from the CHR,” Sobejana added.

In 2012, the two agencies signed the La Breza declaration on human rights cooperation to assure the commitment of the AFP to protect human rights.

The latest MOA will reinforce and complement the declaration issued by the AFP through its HRO and major service commanders in 2012.

“The MOU will foster increased education and training, information sharing and referral of cases, improved monitoring and reporting of incidents, and will further solidify the coordination over reports of alleged human rights violations. The cooperation between the AFP and the CHR on the latter’s clearance system will surely benefit military officers who will undergo confirmation before the Commission on Appointments,” Nacnac said.

Before the MOA, the AFP and CHR worked together in numerous activities such as “the joint conduct of human rights seminars, periodic reviews of the AFP Curriculum, and top-level policy dialogues to clarify military operations.”

“As we take pride in carrying our mandate as defenders of our country and people, we welcome with open arms any form of a collaborative partnership that would be beneficial in the fulfillment of the AFP’s mission of protecting the people and securing the state,” Sobejana said.

According to a report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA), the ceremony was also witnessed by UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzales, CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit, AFP Vice Chief of staff Lt. Gen, Erickson Gloria, and Deputy Chief of Staff Vice-admiral Erick Kagaoan.

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