Antipolo City, Rizal. In line with the attainment of reform goals under LOI “Pamana” 55/O7, otherwise known as the PNP Human Rights Development Program and the PNP Performance Governance System-P.A.T.R.O.L Plan 2030, the Philippine National Police, in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany (HSF) successfully launched the first ever Southeast Asia Human Rights Forum for Police Officials last April 27 to 28, 2015 at the First Pacific Leadership Academy, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City.

“Though we differ in nationality, language, culture, and laws, we have the same faith and hope for our shared humanity. That is, perhaps the most fundamental reason why we need to foster cooperation to promote the common good in this region. We are all human beings with equal rights. As duty-bearers and public servants, we have a great responsibility to ensure that in the enforcement of laws, human rights and human dignity remain upheld and respected,” espoused by PDDG LEONARDO A. ESPINA, Officer-In-Charge of the Philippine National Police to the senior police officials from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines during the opening ceremony held on April 27, 2015.

Meanwhile, His Excellency THOMAS OSSOWSKI, Ambassador of the Republic of Germany to the Philippines cited the importance of fostering regional cooperation among police agencies especially in relation to human rights protection.

The opening ceremony was immediately followed by a press conference wherein PDDG ESPINA stressed the commitment of the PNP to human rights principles and the significance of the anticipated “ASEAN Integration” to ongoing police reforms in Southeast Asia. In attendance during the said press conference include reporters from ABS-CBN, UNTV, and Net 25, among others.

For his part, PCSUPT ANTONIO BELLO VIERNES, Chief, PNP HRAO explained that the two-day forum will be an opportune time among the participating Southeast Asian countries to discuss, share ideas, and cooperate to effectively address human rights issues and concerns in our respective police organizations.

“Equally important, we would like to learn from our counterparts on how their respective police organizations address challenges related to human rights. Through these exchanges of factual experiences, we shall be able to discover the answers and solutions on issues and concerns common to all,” PCSUPT VIERNES elucidated.

The rest of the program for the first day focused on the police delegates’ respective Country Reports on Human Rights with emphasis on human rights trainings, Police Operational Procedures including best practices, and the ongoing initiatives in mainstreaming human rights. For the Philippines, the country report was presented by PSSUPT LEONARDO M. CESNEROS, the Assistant Chief of PNP HRAO.
Further, twenty five copies of the 2014 PNP Annual Accomplishment Report and other IEC Materials on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law from DO, CPSM, and PNP HRAO were distributed during the Opening Ceremony of the Forum.

Copies of a pamphlet entitled “1st Southeast Asia Forum for Police Officials” which showcase, among others, the accomplishments of the PNP HRAO towards the full institutionalization of the respect for human rights as a way of life in the PNP were also distributed during the forum.

On April 29, 2015 (Day 2), the session started with a presentation on the project, “Community-Based Dialogues on Human Rights between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Civil Society Organization” which was presented by Atty. Marlon Manuel, National Coordinator of the Alternative Law Groups, Inc.

A briefing entitled, “ASEAN Integration: Its Impact on Human Rights Issues and Concerns in Southeast Asia” was made by Atty. Ricardo Sunga III of the UP Institute of Human Rights.

PCSUPT VIERNES also gave a presentation entitled, “Fully Institutionalizing Human Rights as a Way of Life in the PNP” to emphasize the framework, components, strategies, and gains made related to human rights-based policing. An evaluation and assessment of forum was also done to gather inputs that would be useful in the preparation for succeeding fora.

The two-day forum was capped by the signing of a Joint Communiqué that declares the shared vision and goal of the delegates to foster regional cooperation in promoting human rights-based policing, with the theme: “Respect for Human Rights as a Way of Life.”

The delegates agreed to maintain lines of contact open in preparation for the proposed 2nd Southeast Asia Forum on Human Rights for Police Officials and further recommended to the ASEANAPOL, the creation of a “Committee on Human Rights” in the said organization.

Police Superintendent Yuli Cahyanti manifested that the ASEANAPOL Secretariat would welcome this recommendation and with the submission of appropriate communications, the said agenda could be put on table during the next ASEANAPOL meeting/conference.

Through the event, the Philippine National Police gained a solid reputation as one of the most innovative police organizations in the region in terms of police reforms and human rights-based policing.