Training and Education
A major aspect of human rights in the Philippines and Southeast Asian region is the education and training of human rights advocates, developmental law practitioners, grassroots communities, students, and civil servants.
AHRC has conducted numerous education and training seminars as means to increase awareness and respect for human rights in the country and Southeast Asian region. Human rights modules and training materials developed are used as reference materials in the conduct of such seminars and workshops.
The topics of these seminars usually deal with national and international laws and policies on human rights. The objectives range from empowerment of target communities with the knowledge and skills.
needed to protect and uphold their rights, to education of decision-makers and support groups on current human rights issues and applicable laws and policies.
Furthermore, law student-interns are highly encouraged to participate in the activities of AHRC by serving as lecturers, trainers, or facilitators during training and educational undertakings. This is in line with AHRC’s goal of values formation through the introduction of students to the concept of alternative law practice and human rights advocacy during the course of the Internship Program.
Law and Policy Advocacy
AHRC advocates and participates in law and policy reform initiatives in the country and Southeast Asian region to ensure that internationally accepted human rights norms and standards are incorporated and integrated in laws, policies and programs. Its child rights desk, for instance, has been involved in the drafting of bills on juvenile justice and child labor, which have been enacted into laws. Furthermore, AHRC has conducted workshops, symposia and focus group discussions in laying the groundwork for its legislative and policy advocacies.
AHRC has also assisted government agencies and NGOs in drafting implementing rules and regulations, including the preparation of policy papers and reports on human rights and developmental issues.
It has also engaged in public interest and test-case litigation as a strategy for law and policy reform through judicial action, such as the legalization of the stay of the remaining Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines as well as the thwarting of an attempt to revise the Philippine Constitution through a spurious “people’s initiative” (which the Supreme Court subsequently labeled as “a constitutionally infirm initiative, propelled by deceptively gathered signatures”). Test-case litigation has also provided the framework for proposing amendments to certain laws.
On a regional level, AHRC’s experience in influencing policy and legislative reforms has served as an example for other human rights groups in the Southeast Asian region in undertaking similar initiatives in their respective countries.
AHRC, as the Secretariat of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, has also been instrumental in having the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body included in the ASEAN Charter (now the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights), as well as the establishment of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.
Research And Publications
In the dynamic arena of human rights advocacy, AHRC keeps abreast with developments through constant research and continuing partnerships with other human rights advocates and organizations, nationally and internationally. Research activities often lead to publications.
AHRC develops training modules and primers on different human rights laws, civil and criminal procedures, other national laws and international instruments. It encourages volunteer law students and lawyers to contribute to the development and updating of these modules and primers. These materials are primarily used in seminars and training sessions conducted for grassroots communities, NGO workers, government officials, and employees.
To date, AHRC has published books, training modules, and primers with the support of various national and international organizations. Research projects have included work on, among others: the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines; Trafficking in Women; Impunity; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Philippine Case Laws; Indigenous Rights; Administrative Detention; and Legal Protection of Migrant Workers.
AHRC’s research projects and publications are widely distributed throughout the Philippines and abroad. Some of these are used as teaching materials for courses in the law school. Others are used as bases for law and policy reform initiatives. Still others are used as a tool in litigation to enrich Philippine jurisprudence. [A partial list of the publications is found in a separate page of this website.
Public Interest Litigation
AHRC was founded at a time of grave human rights concerns in the country. Although its initial aim was to expose students of the Ateneo Law School to pressing human rights issues, it has evolved into a service-oriented organization through its public interest litigation, among its other programs.
Public interest litigation involves all AHRC lawyers, as well as law students, in human rights cases. Student volunteers, with the supervision of AHRC lawyers, interview clients, gather information, and document assigned cases.
The criteria for handling cases include their impact and significance on human rights advocacy and developmental work. Priority is given to those involving children, migrant workers, abused women, indigenous peoples, and labor problems. A Quick Reaction Team is also sometimes formed by AHRC lawyers and students, to handle cases of warrantless arrests in the first instance.
A significant number of cases involve children due to the work of AKAP, which has been providing direct legal counseling to children’s parents and children’s support organizations. Most cases that are handled involve child abuse and exploitation, child custody, and children in conflict with the law.
Among the significant cases handled by AHRC include the cases of People v. Steven Mitchell (involving the second conviction involving pedophilia in Philippine jurisprudence), Lambino v. COMELEC (regarding the use of the “people’s initiative” in amending the Philippine Consitution), and Disini v. Secretary of Justice (involving the Cybercrime Prevention Act vis-à-vis Freedom of Expression).
AHRC’s efforts are not necessarily limited to its existing institutional desks and services. As diverse as the issues and laws pertaining to human rights are, AHRC has been involved, by itself or in partnership with other institutions and organizations, in other projects where human rights issues and concerns are paramount.
Examples of key engagements include:
Peace and development. AHRC has been actively involved not only in research on related issues but also in inter-faith dialogue among members of the government, civil society, and other stakeholders in Mindanao with special focus on Islam, human rights, democracy and women. The aim of this third-party intervention is to help bring peace and development to the much troubled Southern Philippines through law and policy reform. AHRC, for example, has been involved in discussion on adopting a Bangsamoro Basic Law including integrating a Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission.
Problem of extra-legal killings. Recognizing the gravity of this pernicious issue, AHRC joined other concerned civil society organizations in convening case conference on extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances and their available remedies. It was also involved in establishing Multi-Sectoral Quick Reaction Teams (MSQRTs) in pilot areas around the country to serve as one-stop assistance centers where victims and/or their families can report human rights violations, specifically violations of civil and political rights; request immediate investigation; seek legal advice and assistance; and request witness protection.Presently, AHRC is one of the key members of the National Monitoring Mechanism on Human Rights being convened by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.
Electoral participation and reform. AHRC has developed modules on election laws and issues and have conducted paralegal trainings on, among other things, election procedures for pollwatchers. Its lawyers and interns were involved in the initial operations of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) and continue to be involved in other undertakings to safeguard the integrity of the election process.
Curriculum review and development. Mindful as it is of the reputation of its internship program and of Ateneo Law’s standing as a premier academic institution, AHRC is also engaged in endeavors to effect positive and progressive changes in the law curriculum. As part of the Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG), it has undertaken a baseline study of human rights course offerings and programs in law schools as well as research project focused on curriculum review and development towards alternative lawyering. It has also partnered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its curriculum development advocacy efforts.
Linkages. AHRC is part of several networks, not only in the Philippines, but also in the Southeast Asian region. For the Philippines, it is part of the Alternative Law Groups, Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, United Against Torture Coalition and Philippine Alliance for Youth Offenders, among others.
In Southeast Asia, it is a member of the Southeast Asian Human Rights and Peace Studies Network and represents the Ateneo de Manila University in the Human Rights Committee of the ASEAN University Network.
The work in these projects entails conducting trainings, conferences, research, monitoring, and documentation. All these activities are part and parcel of the services provided by AHRC with the view of advancing and promoting developmental law practice and human rights advocacy.