PATH

Peace Advocates For Truth, Healing & Justice

What is PATH?
Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing & Justice (PATH) was formally organized in 2002, pioneering in its focus on human rights violations by a non-state armed group. Composed of torture survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims missing or executed during the anti-infiltration campaigns within the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in the 1980s, PATH seeks truth and justice from the CPP-NPA and other Left blocs involved in the anti-infiltration campaigns. PATH believes that all non-state armed groups, including those not from the Left movement, should observe human rights in the conduct of their resistance against the State. Ultimately, PATH holds the State accountable as well for the purges, and for military atrocities during martial law and throughout successive administrations.
Goals & Objectives
PATH's goals and objectives are as follows:
  • 1. Complete the documents of the cases of all victims during the purges and all those involved.
  • 2. Organize a national community of human rights defenders and advocates composed of survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims during the purges.
  • 3. Facilitate the healing of survivors as well as the families, relatives and friends of purge victims.
  • 4. Conduct exhumations so that victims are given due respect and proper burial.
  • 5. Conduct a comprehensive advocacy work. Its main components will be public information and campaign, solidarity-building and lobbying at the local, national and international levels.
  • 6. Deepen and popularize the culture of human rights through artistic and popular education, productions and other cultural endeavors.
  • 7. Come up with case studies of country experiences on the setting up of Truth and Justice Commissions and strive for the creation of a Truth and Justice Commission in the country together with other human rights organizations and individual human rights advocates.
  • 7 Committees
  • Research & Documentation. Documents stories and produces a database of victims in aid of locating burial sites; conducts research to surface facts and circumstances of the purges; publishes materials as tools for justice campaigns; ensures confidentiality and security of records and files.
  • Recovery of Victims' Remains. In cooperation with the victims' kin, locates gravesites, retrieves the remains and arranges their proper burial; mobilizes the services of forensic experts and other professionals; initiates dialogues with the victims' families as well as with perpetrators.
  • Counseling & Therapy. Facilitates healing sessions that address the long-term trauma of surivivors and victims families; mobilizes professionals in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; builds support groups for victims and their families towards eventual closure.
  • Communications & Popular Education. Develops education programs, including theoretical materials and tools for reflection, that revolve around human rights and respect for human dignity; holds commemoration activities and builds memorials for the victims; develops external communications through publications and mass media.
  • Legal & Security. Leads in the initiation and pursuance of legal actions for victims; assist in the handling and protection of material evidence in coordination with the RVR Committee; conducts research on the possibilities of a Truth Commission; studies the implications of PATH's work on the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the CPP-NPA-NDF; and ensures lines with established institutions that will help strengthen PATH;
  • Arts & Culture. Produces musical compositions, literary works, plays, video documentaries, films, and other cultural works from the stories of survivors and victims.
  • Organizing & Advocacy. Reaches out to survivors and victims' families in different regions and encourages solidarity in their journey towards justice and healing.
  • Comments
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    Monday, August 27, 2007
    UN asked to recall its highest official in RP
    NGOs accuse exec of abuse, harassment

    By Veronica Uy
    INQUIRER.net
    Last updated 10:58am (Mla time) 08/27/2007

    MANILA, Philippines -- Former senator Wigberto Tañada and 48 other leaders of non-government organizations have asked the United Nations to recall its highest official in the Philippines for alleged arbitrariness, unilateralism, abuse, and harassment.

    In a petition, members of the civil society community said:
    “Arbitrariness. Unilateralism. Abuse. Harassment. These are words we do not normally attribute to the UN.”

    “Oftentimes we have seen the UN proactively responding to cases involving these. We are alarmed that now, a UN official is associated with the very things that are anathema to UN values,” they said of Nileema Noble, UN resident coordinator and UN development program representative in the Philippines.

    “We call upon the UN to deal decisively with the living paradox within its ranks as embodied by its highest official in the country, Ms. Nileema Noble. It is imperative that the UN correct this intolerable situation. We expect far higher standards of ethical conduct and professionalism from its representatives. Otherwise, they must go.”

    Noble, who has been at her post for more than a year, is being investigated by the UN for alleged abuse of authority over Filipino employees of the UN office here in Manila.

    At least 13 Filipino staffers of the United Nations office here, including two who have left the office, have sought the ouster of the UN-Manila chief for her “autocratic and oppressive behavior,” according to their letter to Kemal Dervis, administrator of the United Nations Development Program in New York, a copy of which was obtained by INQIUIRER.net.

    Mary Gemme Montebon, Jennifer Navarro, Amelia D. Supetran, Emmanuel E. Buendia, Morito G. Francisco, Imee F. Manal, Clarissa Arida, Roberto V. Carandang, Anna L. Senga, Frances M. Solinap (former UNDP staff), Francis Gertrud R. Mercado (former UNDP staff), Jay-Ann Arandia, and Elcid C. Pangilinan asked that Nileema be punished for “verbal and physical harassment,” “abuse of authority,” and “violation of the rights” of the staffers, particularly rights to effective remedy and due process.

    When asked for comment, Noble’s office said she has been instructed by the UNDP headquarters in New York to refrain from talking about the case.

    The petition was preceded by a short note saying: “We hope that you will agree that no international official, no matter if resource-bearing nor how well-intentioned and even progressive, has the right to treat Filipinos shabbily in their own country.”

    The petitioners noted that Noble’s behavior to UN staff has been known to them. “We are aware that numerous staff under her, whether temporary or fixed term, have complained and filed cases detailing verbal and physical abuse and arbitrary termination of employment contracts. We are appalled that numerous incidents involving Ms. Noble establish a pattern of systematic abuse of authority and downright harassment,” they said.

    The letter said Noble has also been arbitrary in her behavior of lack of consultation, mutual respect, and professionalism toward partner government and academic institutions by invalidating contracts.

    “The UN has set historic precedents in human rights observance over the past decades. Ironically now, the human rights and dignity of UN staff in the Philippines are being trampled. We cannot stand idly by,” it said.

    The other petitioners are Ana Maria “Princess” R. Nemenzo of the Freedom from Debt Coalition; Rosselynn “Jae” dela Cruz, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS); Luzviminda “Vim” Santos, People’s Global Exchange (PGX); Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD); Maria “Mars” Mendoza, Children's Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD) Inc.; Earl Parreno, Altertrade..."

    (Note: The list has been updated since. There are 112 names as of 6 September 2007. Please see separate posting below, A Call to Action," for the complete list).

    posted by PATH @ 8/27/2007 10:59:00 PM   13 comments
    Saturday, August 25, 2007
    A Call To Action
    Note: If you want to add your name to the petition, please email your name and particulars to jofti@yahoo.com with cc: http://us.f524.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=upoytao@yahoo.com and http://us.f524.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=erehes@yahoo.com ) to help us update the list.
    Thank you.

    ---------------------

    Dear friends in the Civil Society Community:
    We are sending you this petition and the attached documents (on the issue of Nileema Noble) for your consideration and support.

    After reading them, we hope that you will agree that no international official, no matter if resource-bearing nor how well-intentioned and even progressive, has the right to treat Filipinos shabbily in their own country. If you believe this, please affix your name to the petition and pass it on.

    On Human Rights and Democracy:
    May the UN Walk the Talk

    Arbitrariness. Unilateralism. Abuse. Harassment.

    These are words we do not normally attribute to the. Oftentimes we have seen the UN proactively responding to cases involving these. We are alarmed that now, a UN official is associated with the very things that are anathema to UN values.

    Ms. Nileema Noble has been the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Philippines for more than a year. We are aware that numerous staff under her, whether temporary or fixed term, have complained and filed cases detailing verbal and physical abuse and arbitrary termination of employment contracts. We are appalled that numerous incidents involving Ms. Noble establish a pattern of systematic abuse of authority and downright harassment.

    The UN has set historic precedents in human rights observance over the past decades. Ironically now, the human rights and dignity of UN staff in the Philippines are being trampled. We cannot stand idly by.

    We are further alarmed that Ms. Noble’s arbitrariness extends to external partnerships. She unilaterally invalidates existing contractual arrangements between the UNDP and government/academic institutions. Many affected agencies, through sundry statements and letters, have expressed deep concern and disappointment over these actions, citing the lack of consultation, mutual respect and professionalism.

    All this, we have learned, is done in the name of "effecting change." Who does not want change? What we cannot be silent about, however, is the use of this supposed "change agenda" as a pretext and a license for excessive behavior with impunity. We are for change in favor of more democracy, more consultation, and more professionalism. We cannot support a change process towards unilateralism, tyranny, and utter disregard for basic rights.

    We, from the civil society community in the Philippines, have a stake on how the UN conducts its programmes and operations in the country. We are ready to support and cooperate with the UN, but we remind the UN to heed the words of Cardoso:

    “The world stands today at a very delicate juncture. The United Nations needs the support of civil society more than ever. But will not get that support unless it is seen as championing reforms in global governance that civil society is calling for...” (Fernando Cardoso, Chair of the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN-Civil Society Relations. Transmittal letter to the Secretary General , 7 June 2004 .)

    It is in this spirit that we call upon the UN to deal decisively with the living paradox within its ranks as embodied by its highest official in the country, Ms. Nileema Noble. It is imperative that the UN correct this intolerable situation. We expect far higher standards of ethical conduct and professionalism from its representatives. Otherwise, they must go.

    Please add your name/organization (optional) to express your support for this cause.
    ****************************************

    Note: After affixing your name to the petition, please email it back to us (jofti@yahoo.com) to help us update the list.

    Thank you.


    **********************************************

    Dear friends in the Civil Society Community:

    We are sending you this petition and the attached documents (on the issue of Nileema Noble) for your consideration and support.

    After reading them, we hope that you will agree that no international official, no matter if resource-bearing nor how well-intentioned and even progressive, has the right to treat Filipinos shabbily in their own country. If you believe this, please affix your name to the petition and pass it on.


    On Human Rights and Democracy: May the UN Walk the Talk


    Arbitrariness. Unilateralism. Abuse. Harassment.

    These are words we do not normally attribute to the United Nations. Oftentimes we have seen the UN proactively responding to cases involving these. We are alarmed that now, a UN official is associated with the very things that are anathema to UN values.

    Ms. Nileema Noble has been the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Philippines for more than a year. We are aware that numerous staff under her, whether temporary or fixed term, have complained and filed cases detailing verbal and physical abuse and arbitrary termination of employment contracts. We are appalled that numerous incidents involving Ms. Noble establish a pattern of systematic abuse of authority and downright harassment.

    The UN has set historic precedents in human rights observance over the past decades. Ironically now, the human rights and dignity of UN staff in the Philippines are being trampled. We cannot stand idly by.

    We are further alarmed that Ms. Noble’s arbitrariness extends to external partnerships. She unilaterally invalidates existing contractual arrangements between the UNDP and government/academic institutions. Many affected agencies, through sundry statements and letters, have expressed deep concern and disappointment over these actions, citing the lack of consultation, mutual respect and professionalism.

    All this, we have learned, is done in the name of "effecting change." Who does not want change? What we cannot be silent about, however, is the use of this supposed "change agenda" as a pretext and a license for excessive behavior with impunity. We are for change in favor of more democracy, more consultation, and more professionalism. We cannot support a change process towards unilateralism, tyranny, and utter disregard for basic rights.


    We, from the civil society community in the Philippines, have a stake on how the UN conducts its programmes and operations in the country. We are ready to support and cooperate with the UN, but we remind the UN to heed the words of Cardoso:

    “The world stands today at a very delicate juncture. The United Nations needs the support of civil society more than ever. But will not get that support unless it is seen as championing reforms in global governance that civil society is calling for...” (Fernando Cardoso, Chair of the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN-Civil Society Relations. Transmittal letter to the Secretary General , 7 June 2004 .)

    It is in this spirit that we call upon the UN to deal decisively with the living paradox within its ranks as embodied by its highest official in the country, Ms. Nileema Noble. It is imperative that the UN correct this intolerable situation. We expect far higher standards of ethical conduct and professionalism from its representatives. Otherwise, they must go.


    Please add your name/organization (optional) to express your support for this cause.


    Name and Organization

    1. Ana Maria "Princess" R. Nemenzo
    2. Rosselynn "Jae" dela Cruz, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through
    Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS)
    3. Luzviminda “Vim” Santos, People’s Global Exchange (PGX)
    4. Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, Executive Director, Asian Federation Against Involuntary
    Disappearances (AFAD)
    5. Maria “Mars” Mendoza, Executive Director, Children's Initiatives for Learning and
    Development (CHILD) Inc.
    6. Antonio “Tony” Villasor
    7. Earl Parreno, Altertrade
    8. Ernesto M. Ordonez, Agriwatch
    9. Gil Navarro, Chair, Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing & Justice
    10. Niva Gonzales
    11. Arnold Tarrobago, Akbayan Citizens' Action Party
    12. Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women-Asia Pacific
    (CATW-AP)
    13. Cora Valdez Fabros
    14. Alice Raymundo
    15. Behn Cervantes
    16. Mercedes "Mercy" L. Fabros
    17. Claudette “Dette-Dette” Arboleda
    18. Soliman “Sol” Santos, South-SouthNetwork (SSN) and Philippine Campaign to Ban
    Landmines
    19. Edicio “Ed” dela Torre, Education for Life Foundation (ELF)
    20. Marianita “Girlie” Villariba, Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
    21. Ronald Llamas, President, Akbayan Citizens' Action Party
    22. Jude Esguerra
    23. Susan “Toots” Ople, Blas F. Ople Policy Center
    24. Cecilia “Thea” Soriano, Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net)
    25. Edwin Chavez, Center for People's Empowerment

    26. Josel Gonzales, Active Citizens Foundation
    27. David Andrade
    28. Danny Carranza, Peace Foundation
    29. Banjo Vina, Bisig
    30. Tomas Villarin, Executive Director, SIAD Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergence for Asset
    Reform and Regional Development (SIMCARRD)
    31. Rhodora A. Abano, Center for Migrant Advocacy
    32. Joe Valencia, KASAPI, Organization of Filipino Migrants in Greece
    33. Debbie Carlos Valencia, DIWATA Phil. Women's Network in Greece
    34. Francisco Cinco, Institute for Popular Democracy
    35. Peter Lavina, Councilor, Davao City
    36. Annelle P. Rivera-Beckstrom, Sociology Department, New School for Social Research,
    NY
    37. Roberto Nicolasora
    38. Arianne Reyes
    39. Etta Pargas-Rosales, Chair Emeritus, Akbayan & Co-Chair, Philippine Coalition for the
    International Criminal Court
    40. Wigberto "Bobby" Tanada
    41. Flor Caagusan
    42. Rodolfo Villanueva, Center for Participatory Governance
    43. Ronnie Tapnio
    44. Maria Luisa Jose-Tapnio
    45. Jeselle Papa
    46. Frances Therese C. Lo
    47. Jose Eliseo "Joel" Rocamora, IPD staff
    48. Ibarra "Barry" M. Gutierrez III
    49. Sister Arnold Maria Noel,SSpS
    50. Arnel Ramos, ODA Watch
    51. Dong Calmada, Peace Foundation, Inc.
    52. Byron D. Bocar, Akbayan! Citizens' Action Party
    53. Rosemary Cheung-Bocar
    54. Joel Saracho, Tbak Inc
    55. Floyd Buenavente, MBS TEK
    56. Aida Santos
    57. Reden B. Recio
    58. Nelson B. Sanchez
    59. Klaid Sabangan
    60. Rodel P. Abenoja Student Council Alliance of the Philippines Vice-Chairperson for Mindanao
    61. Daisy Valero, General Manager, Kalatas
    62. Jerome Bailen, forensic anthropologist
    63. Richard Taduran
    64. Delfin “Ted Borrero”
    65. Auxilium "Inday" Toling-Olayer, Human Rights Advocate, Board of Trustees of various HR organizations in the Philippines
    66. Cecilia Jimenez, Human Rights Lawyer. Geneva, Switzerland
    67. Joseph Francis
    68. Jose “Joey” Flora
    69. Amado "Bong" Mendoza, Jr., Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines
    70. Rebecca "Beckie" Malay
    71. Mylene Saluta, Panbansdang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
    72. Carlos Ocampo, Christian World Service, Sydney, Australia
    73. Christian “Bong” Ramilo, Australia
    74. Orlando “Dong” Tizon
    75. Jesse C. Agbulos
    76. Sylvia Estrada Claudio
    77. Ian Rivera Jr., Kalayaan
    78. Teresita M. Borgoños, Makalaya
    79. Rachel “Che” Aquino
    80. Genie Chavez, Philippine-Australia Partnership for Economic Governance Reforms
    81. Ellene A. Sana, Center for Migrant Advocacy
    82. Ronnie Abeto, Pusong Mamon Task Force / V-Team
    83. Arnold M. Tenerife, Filipinos for Better Philippines (FBP-KSA)
    84. Fr. Ben Moraleda, CSsR
    85. William C. Yerro, V-Team
    86. Ramon Mapa, People's Initiative for Learning and Community Development (PILCD) Baguio City
    87. Dorothy Grace Guerrero, Focus on the Global South, Thailand.
    88. Reynaldo S. Orbon, Member-V-Team, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    89. Wilson Requez, Regional Coordinator, Young Progressives Southeast Asia
    90. Victor S. Barrios, Chair, Global Filipinos Coalition Convenor/Moderator, Global Filipino Forum
    91. Ritchel Salve
    92. Terry Olayta – Canada
    93. Bobby Diciembre
    94. Noel C. Esquela, Center for Migrant Advocacy
    95. Renato Mabunga, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).
    96. Debbie Anne F. Soriano-Garcia
    97. Al Obre
    98. Melba de Guzman Marginson, Centre for Philippine Concerns Australia
    99. Aliza L. Belarmino
    100. Bonn Juego
    101. Rene R. Raya, Action for Economic Refors (AER) Baguio City
    102. Angging Aban
    103. Nethz M. Salvan, TAO-Pilipinas
    104. Ma. Fe Nicodemus, KAKAMMPI Chairperson
    105. Ka Domingo Legario, OFW, West Australia
    106. Patricio "Jojo" N. Abinales, Professor, Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.
    107. Reynaldo S. Orbon, Member-V-Team, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    108. Maria Cecilia Angeles-Cabrera
    109. Anna Navarro, Center for Migrant Advocacy
    110. Hazel Cotoner, Center for Migrant Advocacy
    111. May Cinco
    112. Himayat Rizvanqizi, Himayadar Humanitarian Progress Public Union
    113. Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, Philippines
    114. Risa Hontiveros, Representative, Akbayan Party List
    115. Milabel Cristobal Amar
    116. Dondon Parafina
    117. Yasser F. Sarona, Boy Scouts of the Philippines - National Capital Region
    posted by PATH @ 8/25/2007 09:50:00 AM   3 comments
    At UNDP, No Answer to Staff Complaints from Philippines, As Dervis Schmoozes Ban

    Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

    UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- It was 193 days ago that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a comprehensive audit of the North Korea operations of the UN Development Program and certain other UN agencies, to be completed in 90 days.

    It was 42 days ago that Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro wrote to the UN Board of Auditors, telling them that the Secretariat wants them to go to North Korea to actually audit UNDP's programs conducted there.

    On Monday, Ban Ki-moon met with Kemal Dervis, the Administrator of UNDP. Inner City Press asked for a read-out of the meeting, and on Tuesday one arrived from the Deputy Spokesperson:

    "the Secretary-General and UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis met to discuss issues of mutual concern, including the appointment of UN Resident Coordinators. On UNDP operations in the DPRK, they both agreed that additional measures should be taken in an accountable manner, in consultation with member states and the UNDP Executive Board, to look into new allegations regarding UNDP."

    Since it was already decided back in January that at least the UN Board of Auditors, if not outside party, would audit UNDP, and a second phase of the audit was already called for 42 days ago, the read-out appears to move backward. Tuesday Inner City Press sought clarification at the noon briefing:

    Inner City Press: yesterday the Secretary-General met with Kemal Dervis, of UNDP and you gave me this readout that says they agreed on additional measures for looking into DPRK that should be taken with Member States and executive boards. I couldn't tell from this, what is the status of this second phase of audit that Deputy Secretary-General Migiro wrote a letter about a month ago? What are the next steps on that or does this replace that?

    Deputy Spokesperson: This is the latest on this subject.

    Question: So has the second part been done or not been done?

    Deputy Spokesperson: This is the latest that we have based on the conversation the Secretary-General had with the UNDP Administrator, which, for the others in this room, did not focus just on UNDP and DPRK, but on a number of other issues of concern.

    Inner City Press: You also said they conferred on the appointment of resident coordinators. Who makes the decision choosing who will be the resident coordinator in a country? Is that only UNDP’s decision? Did he confer with the Secretary-General?

    Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, with the Secretary-General. That’s why they had the meeting together.

    Well, among the resident coordinators which Ban Ki-moon and Kemal Dervis should have discussed, or should still discuss and act on, is Nileema Noble, regarding whom 13 named Filipino staff complained to Dervis.

    Kemal Dervis talks global warming on July 31 (while UND Filipino staff burn)

    On Monday Inner City Press asked UNDP's spokesman to respond to the Nileema Noble issues, but his response last on Monday was "this is to acknowledge receipt of your questions. We will try to answer them as we are able." Despite Inner City Press having provided a detailed article about the complaints against Ms. Noble and a request for at least some comment, no comment or response was received on Tuesday.
    Manila-based Inquirer.net has reported:

    In a letter to Kemal Dervis, administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in New York, staffers Mary Gemme Montebon, Jennifer Navarro, Amelia D. Supetran, Emmanuel E. Buendia, Morito G. Francisco, Imee F. Manal, Clarissa Arida, Roberto V. Carandang, Anna L. Senga, Jay-Ann Arandia, and Elcid C. Pangilinan, and former staff workers Frances M. Solinap and Francis Gertrud R. Mercado, also asked that Nileema be punished for "verbal and physical harassment," "abuse of authority," and "violation of the rights" of the staffers, particularly to effective remedy and due process.

    Despite his agency's failure to answer on the complaint filed with him, Dervis could be seen Tuesday chairing a climate change meeting. (Click here for a related Inner City Press story.) Among the staff's complaints is retaliation and the fear of retaliation. On that, the UN's Ethics Office has still not ruled on a UNDP complainant's filing of June 5, despite the 45 day deadline having expired on July 20. The Ethics Office's Robert Benson extended his time to rule. On July 27, Inner City Press sent Mr. Benson an email asking, among other things, if he

    "could explain why the 45 day time period for ruling on the request for whistleblower protection filed with your Office on June 5 (or thereabouts -- the filer has give consent for you to speak) -- why was the time extended? And, separately, is OIOS' activity at UNDP related to seeing if the filer complied with the requirements of whistleblower status?"

    As of yet, there was been no answer at all. Nor to Inner City Press' questions to UNDP on Monday, nor (yet) to the follow-up to Tuesday's noon briefing:

    "question about the second phase of DPRK audit / Board of Auditors visit to DPRK (which were reportedly re-requested by DSG Migiro in a June 19 letter) -- the question is, since the Secretariat's request was made 42 days about, what's up? Will the Board of Auditors be visiting the DPRK? Have they made a request? And, what is up with the Ethics Office waiving the 45 day timeline in ruling on the whistleblower? These are Secretariat questions -- DSG's June 19 request, Secretariat's Ethics Office's 45 day deadline expired on July 20 -- time for an update?"

    If the recent past is any guide, these should be answered on Wednesday. Watch this space.

    posted by PATH @ 8/25/2007 09:48:00 AM   0 comments
    UNDP Staff Rises in Indignation

    Mr. Kemal Dervis

    Administrator

    United Nations Development Programme

    UN Plaza, New York

    cc: Mr. Ad Melkert, UNDP Associate Administrator

    Mr. Hafiz Pasha, UNDP RBAP Director

    Office of Human Resources

    Office of the Ombudsperson

    UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Staff Council

    23 July 2007

    Dear Mr. Dervis,

    Subject: Mrs. Nileema Noble

    It took this long for us to bring certain untenable things to your attention because we gave Mrs. Nileema Noble what she asked for a year ago when she assumed the post of the Resident Representative of UNDP: the benefit of the doubt. Although we already saw the forebodings of trouble, we shrugged off some of her troubling behaviour as mere eccentricities which we can live with and even overcome in time. But the longer we worked with her, the faster we came to the conclusion that her autocratic and oppressive behaviour will not change; that the longer she stays here, the faster the erosion of UNDP’s and even the UN’s credibility in the Philippines .

    Furthermore, many of us can no longer function optimally because of the almost daily harassment and abusive treatment we receive from her. Such abusive behavior, which has resulted to a hostile working environment and demoralization of staff, should not be tolerated in any form by the United Nations and United Nations Development Programme, as stated in the Charter of the United Nations, the Staff Rules and the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service. As you know, Staff Rule 101.2 (d) indicates that “any form of discrimination or harassment, as well as physical or verbal abuse at the workplace or in connection with work, is prohibited. Harassment in any shape or form is an affront to human dignity and international civil servants must avoid it. They should not engage in any form of harassment and must be above any suspicion of it. Further, Article 15 of Standards of Conduct

    for the International Civil Service states that, “Managers and supervisors are in positions of leadership and it is their responsibility to ensure a harmonious workplace based on mutual respect. They must act impartially, without intimidation and favouritism.”

    Mrs. Noble has been, and continue to be culpable of verbal and physical harassment and abuse of authority and has violated the rights of staff members, especially the right to effective remedy and due process. Specifically, she has exhibited improper and abusive behavior, unthinkable from a high-standing UN official, as manifested in the following incidents:

    Verbal and Physical Harassment. According to the UNDP Guidelines on Harassment and Abuse of Authority, harassment is understood to be any improper and unwelcome conduct that has or might reasonably be expected or be perceived to cause offence or humiliation to another. Harassment may be present in the form of words, gestures, or actions which tend to annoy, alarm, abuse, demean, intimidate, belittle, or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment to another or that causes an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Harassment normally implies a series of incidents.

    Ø Most recently, she insulted and embarrassed staff in front of high ranking government officials, publicly berating them with rude language for supposedly not undertaking a task which she committed to the government without even consulting and formally informing the staff concerned.

    Ø Poked a staff member’s chest and forcefully slapped another’s back to emphasize a point because she is angry or frustrated.

    Ø Rebuffed a staff who was so happy because Mrs. Noble already signed a contract (after several weeks of the document being with the latter). When the said staff slightly touched Mrs. Noble on the shoulder and quipped that it was finally over, Mrs. Noble physically shoved her hand away and responded in a loud voice, “What are you suggesting- that I’m pending documents in this office… “.

    Ø Meetings where she often raises her voice and nit-picks on managers and staff members, embarrassing and denigrating them unnecessarily. Several incidents of one-on-one meetings with staff where she raised her voice caused further intimidation and fear among them.

    Ø High-handed behavior with staff members, treating them with not a bit of respect. In one incident, a staff witnessed Mrs. Noble’s ordering another staff to fetch a pen under her table, which she can very well do on her own.

    Ø Several incidents with staff where she would nakedly point out their supposed rudeness in front of colleagues for not immediately greeting her good morning or good afternoon while she does not even observe it herself. In fact, she would rudely interrupt meetings of staff with the Deputy Resident Representative and not even apologize for the rude intrusion. There was one incident where she was not satisfied with the workshop flow and accused the UN staff in-charge of the activity of sabotaging the Office, in front of everyone.

    Ø Mrs. Noble questioned one staff for not immediately informing of her plans to go n a special leave without pay (SLWOP), and accused her of not being ransparent. When the staff attempted to explain that it was premature to advise he office of her plans at that time, she was told by Mrs. Noble that if this happened in another organization, she would have been kicked out immediately and would seriously damage her career. As a result of this incident with the staff, Mrs. Noble called her supervisor and berated her regarding the kind of relationship with her staff, saying that as the supervisor, she should know in advance all of their individual plans, including personal.

    Ø Several incidents where staff were too afraid to speak or question her decisions even if such will clearly compromise the organization for fear of retaliation. Whenever staff muster enough courage to speak their minds on certain issues which clearly contravene her own, she would intimidate these staff until they give up. By her actuations, Mrs.Noble always presumes herself to be correct and no one should, therefore, question her actions. In one of the staff meeting, Mrs. Noble announced staff movements and claimed that she has informed the particular staff of his re-assignment to another unit, where he allegedly agreed on. The concerned staff responded that it was the first time that he has heard of the re-assignment.

    Ø Often exhibiting unnecessary frustration, rage and intimidation if an outcome is not to her liking, accusing staff of perceived hidden motivation, imaginary errors and incomplete staff work. She often accuses staff of hiding things from her and not providing her enough information, no matter how many briefings, briefing papers and other information materials are provided her. She does not listen to staff explanation and makes oft-repeated accusations which are baseless and untrue.

    Ø One incident where she almost tore a letter apart when she erased her signature in front of a staff, implying that the staff was trying to trick her into signing that document.

    Ø She also has the habit of throwing papers back to the persons submitting them, if she is not satisfied with such papers.

    Abuse of Authority. According to the UNDP Guidelines on Harassment and Abuse of Authority, abuse of authority implies the improper use of a position of influence, power, or authority by a staff member or non-staff personnel against another staff member or non-staff personnel or a group thereof. This is particularly serious when a staff member or non-staff personnel uses his or her influence, power or authority to negatively influence the career or employment conditions (including, but not limited to, appointment, assignment, contract renewal, performance evaluation or promotion) of another staff member or non-staff personnel. It can include a one-time incident or a series of incidents. Abuse of authority may also consist of conduct that creates a hostile or offensive work environment, which includes, but is limited to, the use of intimidation,

    threats, blackmails or coercion.

    Ø Recent arbitrary (and forcible) termination of two staff without due process. Further, the manner in which she handed out the decision and her ensuing instructions for its implementation, such as the terminated staff’s leaving the UN premises immediately, packing their belongings and turn-over of keys and IDs within the hour) showed how little her respect is for common decency and dignity of a human person, treating them like common criminals. Staff members who witnessed these incidents were left in shock and fear. If these could happen to high-ranking national staff in the UNDP/UN, then it can very well happen to them, or even much worse. These incidents of arbitrary termination happened in a span of only two weeks.

    Ø Adding insult to injury, one of them was told not to contest the decision of his termination. If he did, then Mrs. Noble said that she will have to state a reason for the termination that will tarnish his record which, in effect, would deprive him of possible UN employment opportunities in the future..

    Ø Several verbal threats to staff that their contracts will not be renewed if targets are not achieved or performance is not acceptable to her. She even made a threat to withhold a staff member’s salary if performance is not up to her standards.

    Ø In staff meetings, she often emphasized and justified her micro-management approach to her lack of trust in the unit mangers’ capacity and ability to perform their assigned tasks. This led to several incidents where she arbitrarily decided on operational and programmatic issues, disregarding programme recommendations such as: which consultant contract gets signed, who gets to go on leave, etc.

    Ø Her arbitrary decisions on programme management modalities and strategies led to delay in the implementation of projects, delivery of resources and much confusion on how programmes are to be managed and implemented by partners. One classic example is her arbitrary removal of Project Management Offices and the change of an Implementing Partner, without due process, rational basis and against the objections of her managers and staff.

    Ø Numerous delayed appointments, abrupt termination of contracts and refusal to sign contracts and documents, which affected much of the staff’s workload (which are already burdensome) and performance and delivery of programs and projects. At present, the RCA process (personnel evaluation) of some staff are being delayed for months when contract expiration is fast approaching. In a previous instance, this resulted in arbitrary termination of staff while his RCA rebuttal process was still in progress.

    Ø Unreasonable delay or non-approval of official travel and staff leaves (well within the delegated authority of managers) which caused non-participation in important meetings and conferences locally/abroad, loss of opportunities for learning and staff development, and unfulfilled monitoring obligations of UNDP to its donors. There was an incident where one staff resigned due to the delayed approval of her one-month leave, which she filed two months earlier. She has worked for UNDP for eight years and never took any long-term leave except for that one instance and was let go just like that.

    Ø Mrs. Noble’s impossible, whimsical requests and demands to be included in certain high-level meetings and conferences have led to incidents where staff had to push themselves to the limit to satisfy her. There was an incident where a staff had to stay late at night for two days just to enable her to get into an event she, for some reason, craved to be in. When everything has been arranged, she decided last minute not to go anymore, without any explanation or apologies.

    Ø Abolition of a very important Unit: the Programme Monitoring Unit and its staff (whom she unreasonably judged to be incompetent and ineffective) which led to the distribution of that Unit’s workload to already overloaded staff in the office. More than 17 staff left during her term due to non-renewal of contracts, forced resignation and staff demoralization. Only a handful of staff are left and continue to leave due to the hostile working environment. Increased incidence of stress-related illnesses is prevalent among staff nowadays.

    Ø Former staff and SSAs who left or resigned have been banned from visiting the CO or being hired again. In one incident, under instructions from Mrs. Noble, DRR Naka informed the former supervisor of one staff that resigned not to visit or show herself in the CO since this would upset Mrs. Noble. Further, one SSA’s contract has been terminated within 10 days without reason or explanation.

    Ø A very grave infraction committed by Mrs. Noble was her incursion into staff privacy in communications. She had one of the staff member’s office cellphone seized, its contents downloaded, on mere unfounded accusation of a PMO staff that the staff member was spreading malicious messages about her. Mrs. Noble made no amends nor even offered an apology even when the exercise did not yield information incriminating the staff whose cellphone was seized.

    We are also aware of Mrs. Noble’s retort that these allegations are mere complaints from “incompetent and non-performing staff”, as she would call those who would go against her whims and caprices. This is totally untrue as shown in our previous performance appraisals for the last 5 years. Most of us have worked here for several years and this is the only time that we experienced such oppressiveness, callousness and total disregard of our rights and dignity especially coming from a high-ranking UN official.

    These are but some of the incidents, showing without a doubt, the abusive character of Mrs. Noble. We have been forced to seek your help because, unfortunately, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and are afraid that this oppressive situation will continue.

    In order to prevent further verbal and physical harassment and abuse of authority, resulting in violations of UN rules and our rights as international civil servants, and in order to prevent further prejudice to the work of UNDP and the UN in relation to its partners, we ask that Mrs. Nileema Noble be immediately relieved as Resident Representative of UNDP and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines . We also ask that disciplinary action be immediately commenced against Mrs. Noble for violation of UN regulations and our human rights as UN staff.

    We would like to serve notice that we reserve our right to seek recourse through other avenues for legitimate grievances.

    We hope that this plea will not be in vain.

    Sincerely,

    Concerned UNDP Staff and other UN Staff

    Mary Gemme Montebon

    Jennifer Navarro

    Amelia D. Supetran

    Emmanuel E. Buendia

    Francisco G. Morito

    Imee F. Manal

    Clarissa Arida

    Roberto V. Carandang

    Anna L. Senga

    Frances M. Solinap (former UNDP Staff)

    Francis Gertrud R. Mercado (former UNDP Staff)

    Jay-Ann Arandia

    Elcid C. Pangilinan

    posted by PATH @ 8/25/2007 09:48:00 AM   0 comments
    Friday, July 20, 2007
    A letter for the Supreme Court Justice
    Justice Reynato S. Puno

    SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR., Esq.

    Attorney’s Roll No. 32334

    Lawyer, Legislative Consultant, Legal Scholar

    18 Mariposa St., Cubao, Quezon City

    Tel. 7252153, Fax 4138821

    98 Albatross St., RJ Vil., Canaman, Cam. Sur (currently here)

    Tel. (054) 4744659, Cel. (0920) 29036xx

    Email: gavroche@info.com.ph


    Naga City

    07-07-07


    Hon. Reynato S. Puno

    Chief Justice

    Supreme Court


    Dear Mr. Chief Justice,


    Re: National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings

    and Enforced Disappearances – Searching for Solutions


    Greetings of Peace and Justice!


    I am writing you on the above-indicated subject in various capacities but, first of all, as a member of the bar and thus officer of the court. As a human rights lawyer, I join others in commending you on this initiative as well as your earlier administrative order designating RTC branches nationwide to handle such cases. Allow me to proceed to some points for consideration in relation to your planned Summit, for some of which points I mention my relevant capacity.


    (1) I wish to share with you the enclosed “Joint SSN-PATH Reaction to Prof. Philip Alston’s Philippine Mission Press Statement of 21 February 2007” to which I was a co-signatory as Regional Focal Point for Asia of the South-South Network (SSN) for Non-State Armed Group Engagement. The main point of this reaction is that it may help to place the current extrajudicial executions (EJE) issue in perspective by noting that it swirls around the facts (and propaganda) involving at least three types of EJE with different sets of victims of human rights violations:

    a) state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, esp. killings of legal Left activists and media persons from 2000 to 2006 -- which is what the Task Force Usig, the Melo Commission, the Alston Mission, some other international missions, and local human rights groups like Karapatan have focused on

    b) ongoing NPA liquidations or summary executions of civilians outside combat e.g. civilian informers or spies, criminal “bad elements” like rapists and cattle rustlers, policemen who do not have combat duties but are killed for their weapons, “despotic” landlords and “abusive” local officials/politicians -- regarding which the AFP claims to have listed 1,227 liquidations, also for 2000-2006

    c) CPP-NPA internal purges of many of its own members suspected of being military “deep penetration agents” in the 1980s -- which has been PATH's advocacy issue as victims, survivors and relatives


    Any inquiry into the current EJE issue in the Philippines should be informed by this local context of an internal armed conflict which involves two sides. Political violence in the Philippines is both state and non-state.
    There must therefore be no mixing up of or confusion about the three types of EJE as outlined above, so that correspondingly appropriate measures for justice can be laid out whereby the victims of all types, not just one type, of EJE are given their due. In a state-oriented legal and human rights system, there mechanisms and processes for responsibility and accountability are much more developed for states and state actors than they are for non-state actors like rebel groups. This asymmetry has to be reckoned with in the search for solutions and justice.

    (2) In a context of armed conflict, as we mentioned, international humanitarian law (IHL) is of particular relevance as a term of reference, not just constitutional and human rights. For while human rights have been traditionally invoked against the state and state actors (though there is a recent trend to invoke it also against non-state actors), IHL can be invoked against both state and non-state actors, more precisely government and rebel forces which are parties to an armed conflict. Thus, human rights instruments on EJE largely deal with the state and state actors, while IHL provisions on EJE cover both/all parties to an armed conflict.

    Regarding IHL, it bears noting that in the case of Kuroda vs. Jalandoni [83 Phil. 171 (1949)], it was ruled that “the rules and regulations of the Hague and Geneva conventions form part of and are wholly based on the generally accepted principles of international law… Such rules and principles, therefore, form part of the law of our nation even if the Philippines was not a signatory to the conventions embodying them.” (italics supplied) In fact, the same decision referred to “generally accepted principles and policies of international law which are part of our Constitution.” (italics supplied)


    With regard in particular to enforced disappearances, we should therefore factor in whatever relevant guidance not only from the new human rights instrument which is the International (UN) Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances but also from the IHL regime on the missing or unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence. Aside from the relevant codal provisions of key IHL treaties like the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols I & II (30th anniversary this year!), there is much developed guide material on this particular area of IHL based on many years of experience in handling the matter by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The most developed material is known as the ICRC Report: The Missing and Their Families. The Court and/or the Summit can avail of this from the ICRC-Manila Delegation Office.


    (3) While we are speaking of international legal references, it might also be relevant to any effort of the Court to enhance the rules of court or promulgate new ones, to refer to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court, which is considered the highest development of international criminal procedure. Of course, this procedural instrument is tied to or is in the context of a substantive international treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, not yet ratified by the Philippines [see Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., et al. vs. Office of the Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 158088, 6 July 2005]. But this should not necessarily deter your Court from adopting or adapting good rules from an international model, such as in the procedural protection of victims and witnesses.


    (4) In connection with the coming Summit, you were reported as speaking of the possibility of altering the scope of command responsibility. As you know, there was extensive discussion of this concept, including its historical legal antecedents, in the Melo Commission Report (at pp. 63-71). Though the latest precise definition of command responsibility is that found in the Rome Statute’s Article 28, the general concept (not necessarily the Rome Statute definition) of command responsibility can already be considered as part of binding customary international law. Still, it is in the realm of substantive law (principles of criminal responsibility) rather than procedural rules.


    For the information of the Court and of the Summit, there have been bills filed in Congress which define command responsibility in the accordance with the latest international criminal legal definition per the Rome Statute. It is found in what the proponent Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) calls the “IHL Bill,” or more precisely “An Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law and Other Serious International Crimes, Operationalizing Universal Jurisdiction, Designating Special Courts, and for Related Purposes.” The leading example of this in the defunct 13th Congress was the enclosed Senate Bill No. 2511 (see Sec. 10) introduced by Senator Richard J. Gordon who happens to also be the PNRC Chair. I in turn happen to be the PNRC legislative consultant for this IHL Bill. This will be re-filed in both legislative chambers of the coming 14th Congress.


    (5) It has also been reported that the coming Summit might tackle the problem of false charges/fabricated cases which are politically motivated by the government against Leftist personalities and activists. I wish to bring up another matter of false charges/fabricated cases especially for murder – those filed, prosecuted, tried and decided against innocent fall guys despite rebel group (e.g. NPA) claims of responsibility for the extrajudicial killings in question. There have already been a number of cases of this sort over the years. I can speak with personal knowledge of one such case which has reached the Court wherein I was a defense counsel. I am referring to the Abadilla murder case of 11 years which reached the Supreme Court in 2000 on automatic review as G.R. No. 141660-64 (People vs. Fortuna, et al. but transferred to the Court of Appeals in 2005) and on certiorari petition as G.R. No. 142065 (with a Decision on 7 September 2001, see Lumanog vs. Salazar, 364 SCRA 719).


    In that Abadilla murder case, both the RTC first and then the Supreme Court twice later rejected motions/petitions of the “Abadilla 5” death convicts to present new/additional evidence showing Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB of the NPA then) responsibility for the extrajudicial killing of a former military officer turned civilian politician and businessman Rolando Abadilla, including his taken Omega wrist watch which an ABB personality had turned over to “Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes to back up the ABB’s claim in several written and verbal media statements that it was responsible for the killing, so as to exculpate the innocent death convicts. There must be a way to receive, test/cross-check and appreciate various forms of evidence that underground rebel sources who cannot come out might proffer in relation to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances which they have had a hand in or have intimate knowledge of, if only to spare the innocent from false charges/fabricated cases.


    This is relevant to our early point in paragraph (1) above about the problem of existing mechanisms and processes, including judicial ones, when it comes to non-state actors like rebel groups which cannot just surface from their underground status – lest they themselves become victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. There is an element of vicious cycle here – killing and counter-killing - that must be broken.


    Again, you and the Court must be commended for doing your/its part in breaking that cycle. The coming Summit, together with the earlier catalyzing Alston Mission, have emerged as key parts of a counter-cycle of searching for and finding solutions. Thank you for your efforts, and for your attention to this letter.

    Sincerely yours,

    SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR.

    posted by PATH @ 7/20/2007 04:41:00 PM   1 comments
    Tuesday, July 17, 2007
    Our Times:How to pick up a pen from the floor
    (October 16, 2006) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with Presidential Adviser for Job Creation Sec. Arthur Yap and UN Resident Coordinator Nileema Noble, during the Flag Raising ceremony and the United Nations Campaign "Stand-up" to signal the Philippines' participation in the Nationwide Stand Against Poverty and the Millenium Development goals at the Kalayaan Grounds, Malacañang.

    HOW does one pick up a pen that he or she accidentally drops to the floor? If it’s a woman, more often the man nearest to the pen picks it up and hands it over to its owner with a smile. If it’s a man, he just bends a bit or stoops (depending on his height) to pick it up. No big deal, right?

    Apparently, not in the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office, if letters and complaints from aggrieved staff are to be believed. It seems the head of this office, a woman named Nileema Noble dropped her pen. A male staff who happened to be in the room when this happened was about to pick the pen from the floor. The lady boss motioned him to stop and proceeded to call out her secretary’s name. The secretary, who was seated in her desk outside the boss’ office, went in. She meekly picked up the pen from the floor and handed it to her boss. And this, my friends, is one particular example of how a UN official based in the Philippines prefers to pick up her pen.

    I write this piece with malice towards none, but with a firm belief that all people – regardless of nationality – must treat people with respect. This is the foundation of decent work. Aware that the official being complained about has her rights, too, I promise her an equal right to rebut the information volunteered by her staff, through this column.

    But first, here are the points raised by a group of Filipino staff members who recently sought the help of the Blas Ople Policy Center so that they could ventilate their grievances:

    1. The head of the UNRC, without minimum courtesies as expected in any other organization, unceremoniously terminated two UN Staff, one, an assistant resident representative for operations, and the other, a UN coordination specialist. They were given only a few hours to leave the UN premises after they were sacked. Adding insult to injury, they were told that if they keep silent and don’t contest her decision to pre-terminate their contracts, they can have other opportunities to work within the UN system. However, if they talk, she will make sure they never get to work for the UN again.

    2. The unpopularity of the UNRC head is reflected in the UNDP’s Global Staff Survey where she came out last among the UNDP resident representatives in terms of approval rating. She scored 43%, a much lower score than the global average of 60%. Majority of UN resident representatives in Manila received 90%+ in approval ratings.

    3. UNRC personnel continue to be traumatized in her presence. For example, she would throw documents on the floor when she was angry and then order her secretary to pick them up for her. She would also go into a flying rage whenever someone argues or tries to correct her. On another occasion, she literally shook another staff that dared proffer an explanation during one of Mrs. Noble’s foul moods.

    4. This dynamic has spilled over to implementation of various government-UN projects with the disbandment of project management staff offices to help bridge these projects. Several government implementing agencies were surprised to learn about the UNRC’s unilateral decision to change implementing partners without due process, disband project management offices even at the risk of affecting results and imposing new program realities despite earlier agreements reached with stakeholders.

    These are just some of the complaints raised by a group of staffmembers who came to see me a few days before my column deadline. One of them, former coordination specialist, Robert Francis Garcia, said he has written the Department of Foreign Affairs, the UN Ombudsman and the rest of the UN Country Team members and the UNDP Headquarters in New York. He also gave me a copy of his letter.

    In it, he wrote: "The Coordination Specialist position was designed to assist the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC or simply RC, officially the highest-ranking UN position in a country) in harmonizing work among various UN agencies. The post as vacated successively by two other people (the first one, temporarily). I won’t hazard a reason for their premature departure, though it is particularly telling that people under Nileema’s watch are leaving in droves. More than 20 people have left the UNDP since she came, and counting. I also cannot speak in their behalf, but I can speak from my own experience."

    "Tolerance and understanding are basic human values. They are essential for international civil servants, who must respect all persons equally, without any distinction whatsoever. This respect fosters a climate and a working environment sensitive to the needs of all. To achieve this in a multicultural setting calls for a positive affirmation going well beyond passive acceptance." [Article 6 of the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service, The United Nations Ombudsman’s Office.]"

    "There was never an instance when she did not raise her voice. The surreal "meeting" (when he learned he was being sacked) on May 4 was not unusual – it was a daily occurrence with Nileema."

    I am convinced that the staff members who came to see me are telling the truth. I hope that the United Nations look into their complaints. The Department of Foreign Affairs could also help by calling the attention of the UNRC on how our nationals should be treated. We talk about protection for Overseas Filipino Workers. Here at home, we must be just as passionate in protecting the rights of our own workers.

    Sometimes a simple gesture speaks volumes about the humanity of a person. So tell me, how do you pick up your pen from the floor?

    (Visit my blog at www.susanople.com. Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)

    from here
    posted by PATH @ 7/17/2007 10:23:00 AM   1 comments
    Tuesday, July 10, 2007
    Something Ignoble within the UN

    I write this piece with the standing belief that internal democracy and freedom of expression are still practiced and honored within the United Nations system. That belief may have been shaken some with my recent work experience at the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines , but I nevertheless remain confident that a small but deeply flawed component does not represent the whole. I also trust that a progressive institution such as the UN has the capacity and tools to self-repair.

    "Managers and supervisors are in positions of leadership and it is their responsibility to ensure a harmonious workplace based on mutual respect; they should be open to all views and opinions and make sure that the merits of staff are properly recognized. They need to provide support to them; this is particularly important when they are subject to criticism arising from the carrying out of their duties. Managers are also responsible for guiding and motivating their staff and promoting their development." (Underscoring supplied). [Article 15 of the Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service , The United Nation's Ombudsman's Office.]
    I have been with the UNRC Office for four months, having been invited to apply (and chosen) for the temporary post of Coordination Specialist for nine (9) months from December 2006 to September 2007. Since then I've been clocking in 12-15 work hours everyday, given the extraneous load of the RC office.

    On 4 May 2007 at 1:00 p.m. , I was called to a meeting by my boss, Ms. Nileema Noble (UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative). Two other UNDP officers were also called in: Mr. Kyo Naka, UNDP Deputy Representative and Ms. Ethel Capuno, UNDP Procurement Officer.

    After having seated, Nileema got straight to the point and said that they were already terminating my contact that same day. (I was to be paid half a month after the termination date in lieu of the 15-day notice as provided in the contract).

    "Can I ask for the reason why?" I queried, matter-of-factly.

    "You know that we are not required to give you a reason," replied Nileema. "Your Special Service Agreement (SSA) contract allows either party to unilaterally terminate it at any point within the duration." She then stated that she was not satisfied with my performance, and that there is a mismatch between the skills I possess and those that are demanded by my work.

    "I would like to contest that," I answered. "I am not questioning your move to unilaterally terminate my contract, as that is your prerogative, but I do not agree with the arbitrary appraisal of my performance. I am not perfect, and I'm sure I have had lapses in my work like anyone else, but I have so far delivered the tasks expected of me." I went on to enumerate the accomplished assignments thus far: the clockwork regularity of the UN Country Team (UNCT) meetings, the series of Delivering as One briefings, the UNCT Retreat, the mission of Prof. Philip Alston (UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions), and so forth. In all this I was able to harness the collective strength of the UNRC office team, ensuring that tasks were properly delegated while taking on direct, hands-on work myself. I have indeed received positive feedback from UNCT members and other UN colleagues.

    "The UNCT members have negative comments against you," Nileema retorted, "but I don't want to divulge them here. Also, you may of course contest this decision but that is up to you, and there are consequences. As it is now, you can leave with a record of good standing in the UN, because we are not declaring any reason for the contract's termination. But if you contest, then we will do that.

    "Furthermore, another reason is that there are confidential RC Office documents that somehow reached other people." I gave her a bewildered look, thus she continued: "I'm not saying you yourself leaked them. But it is the RC office's responsibility to safeguard these documents."

    I asked what exactly these documents were, for I was clueless, but again she refused to say. I was thus left unable to clarify whatever it was or even defend myself against accusations.

    I was then asked to sign the letter of termination, stating that the Coordination Specialist function I was performing was no longer required. I said I do not want to sign any document, asking for some time to consider these things.

    "No!" she blurted. "You cannot confer with anyone!"

    I found that incomprehensible. Since when did the "freedom to consult" been banned in a higher institution such as the UN? But I simply said I don't intend to "confer" with other people about this. I just needed a few hours to mull things over.

    "You don't have that option."
    "So what will you do if I refuse to sign this document? Bodily carry me out of the UN premises?" I was beginning to boil then.

    It was then Ethel's turn to intervene, trying to be diplomatic. "No, we don't do that naman at the UN. All we ask is that you simply 'acknowledge receipt' of this notice." Nileema stated further that, whether I sign it or not, the termination will be effective anyway.

    So I silently sat there for a number of minutes, weighing things, looking each of them in the eye, finding it strange that within the UN such disregard for due process and humane conduct continue unhampered. I considered defying it, but realized in the same instance that I wouldn't want to stay a minute longer in such an oppressive work environment. In all of my years as a professional, it was only at the UNRC Office where I felt I was living a nightmare existence. I've been dragging my feet to work every single day.

    Thus I wrote "notice received" in the one-page document, signed it, and quickly packed my stuff. I wasn't able do a proper handover because my email was immediately cut that very afternoon.


    Taking the Fall

    Soon as I left, I contemplated the reasons for the early termination of my contract. "Mismatch of my skills with those demanded of the job" she said. Perhaps there is some of that element. I was once described by Nileema as an "academic" type, but what was required of us was to attend to the voluminous, assembly line-like routine of the RC office and perform simultaneous tasks. Hardly anyone, however, can keep up with this. The "work-life balance" bandied about was an illusion. As one UN official told me: "I'm in your mailing list, and I can't imagine how you can perform all those demanding assignments. I saw the ones before you leave one after the other. The system, clearly, is designed to fail." While I am confident that my extraneous efforts delivered the goods, amid the difficulties and aggravations that multiplied the burden, I grant that the boss has the prerogative to declare otherwise.

    The other reason was the so-called "leaked document," of which I remain uninformed, thus the best I can do is speculate. It maybe something related to human rights, or MDGs, or whatever themes we worked on. Hundreds of documents fly around and from the UN everyday, though I can assert that I have not sent any document to anyone with malice and without authorization or protocol. Still, Nileema can claim any single one of them has "fallen into the wrong hands" and I would be in no position to question that.
    What I object to is the arbitrariness and utter disregard for proper procedure, and more importantly the abhorrent behavior one would not expect from a civilized human being, much less from a UN diplomat.


    A Dreadful Work Environment

    The Coordination Specialist position was designed to assist the UN Resident Coordinator (UNRC or simply RC, officially the highest-ranking UN position in a country) in harmonizing work among various UN agencies. The post was vacated successively by two other people (the first one, temporarily). I won't hazard a reason for their premature departure, though it is particularly telling that people under Nileema's watch are leaving in droves. More than 20 people have left the UNDP since she came, and counting. I also cannot speak in their behalf, but I can speak from my own experience.

    "Tolerance and understanding are basic human values. They are essential for international civil servants, who must respect all persons equally, without any distinction whatsoever. This respect fosters a climate and a working environment sensitive to the needs of all. To achieve this in a multicultural setting calls for a positive affirmation going well beyond passive acceptance." (Underscoring supplied) [ Article 6 of the Standards of Conduct for the I nternational Civil S ervice, The United Nation's Ombudsman's Office.]

    The present RC is some kind of an enigma. I have never seen such kind of leadership conduct before. It is the kind of behavior one can associate with a jail warden (from whom it is not acceptable as well). There is no normal conversation with her, at least so far as I have observed in her interaction with all the staff. (Equal or higher-ranking officials are a different matter – she deals with them casually or with reverence).
    There was never an instance when she did not raise her voice. The surreal "meeting" we had on May 4 that I just narrated was not unusual – it was a daily occurrence with Nileema.

    A senior UN official, from whom we sought advice a few months earlier, suggested that the problem might have something to do with "cultural differences." I considered that notion, and caught myself thinking that, if at all, the cultural dimension here takes the form of an anachronistic social construct called the "caste system," which bases the treatment of human beings based on their position in the pecking order. . What apparently matters to Nileema is a person's place in the human artifice called "hierarchy."

    As such, Nileema somehow antagonizes most everyone she meets, as most of us are "subordinates" anyway. Her behavior towards people seemingly comes with a personal sense of entitlement; that her high UN position gives her the Brahman license to treat people in such abysmal manner.

    In all four months with the office I forced myself to hang on. I resolved to try and "survive" it and find ways to somehow solve the unbearable situation we were all in. I saw an opportunity to constructively address it at our UNRC Office retreat, where presumably we can air out grievances. I told Nileema in the most reasonable manner that there could be a better way of relating with the UN staff. "Whenever you are around, the stress level among the staff shoots up." She responded that she always had that effect on people wherever she was – whether in her previous posts or even in her family.

    "But that is how I am, and it has to do with my passion for work. I'm just passionate."

    Fine. It's just unfortunate that she seems to have mistook treating people as virtual slaves 'to get the job done' as 'passion.'

    It also gives her the authority to dictate what is wrong and what is right, regardless of what others say or think. You cannot argue your point. Nileema is known to crash in on a workshop underway, whether it's a government or civil society function, undermine the proceedings and declare that "everything is wrong." She then proceeds to declare what is right. What is right is not based on merit but on brandished authority.

    An example indicative of this abrasive unilateralism was when she was asking me about a human rights-related meeting that was not proceeding according to how she wanted.

    "Are you sabotaging the RC office?" she exclaimed.

    Sabotaging?! I was so incredulous and offended I almost replied: "With the way you are running this office, I don't even need to." But I checked myself, realizing that would've entailed stooping to the level of coarseness I was objecting to. I simply expressed my incredulity. "Of course not. Why would I do such a thing?"

    One of Nileema's oft-repeated justifications for her behavior is that she is just hammering people to work better. "Not good enough!" is a common outburst. The question is: does it work? The exodus of her staff is hardly an indication that things are going in the right direction. Frayed nerves of those who remain can never produce quality work. Nileema does not believe in positively motivating people; she promotes a culture of submissiveness and subjugation. In the process, she continues to lose the cooperation and respect not only of her staff but partners as well from donors, government offices, and civil society.

    A sympathetic colleague tried to assuage my distress by saying that Nileema is an exception, rather than the rule, in the UN. She is just a fluke and therefore I should not be disillusioned with the entire system. But this aberration has the potential to wreak havoc on the whole. Allowing this to continue, apart from driving people out and restricting the creative freedom of workers, holds the greater danger of perpetuating a vicious cycle. It creates a system that cultivates a handful of clones that unquestioningly do their boss' bidding and replicate her behavior toward their respective colleagues and subordinates, while leaving a throng of embattled, embittered soldier ants. It breeds "transfer of oppression;" or the so-called "kick the dog" syndrome. I saw it happening already, and the repercussions are frightening.

    What is ironic in all this is that other UN agencies and parallel international organizations have already evolved far more egalitarian systems of work. The present UNRC, assigned with the momentous role of leading the UN system's sweeping reform agenda under the "Delivering as One" banner, remains stuck in a patently feudal mindset and form of rule. This may perhaps explain the major reluctance of officials and staff during the Delivering as One briefings, which provides for "one leader" among others. This would've been easier to swallow if that "one leader" respects "all persons equally, without any distinction whatsoever…and fosters a climate and a working environment sensitive to the needs of all." Regrettably, the current UN leader in the Philippines considers the organization as her own private fiefdom.

    I realize that the foregoing could very likely jeopardize any possible UN career for me in the future. For all it's worth, right now I am still presumably "in good standing" and can continue searching other options within the system, so long as "I keep my peace." I'm better off being mum about it, however I can never feel fine with myself knowing that such abomination continues to exist and I simply let it pass.

    It is incumbent for those who are still within the UN, especially those who relate with Nileema directly, to do something about the regressive state of affairs she is perpetuating. The country's development is at stake, and so is the UN's potential to affect its course. The country and the UN cannot condone yet another tyrant, for that would breed more of her kind. As Lord Achton once famously declared: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
    In many of our meetings, Nileema often declared that she "does not know anything about human rights." Does one really need to overstate the obvious?

    I rest my case.


    Robert Francis Garcia
    Former Coordination Specialist
    UN Resident Coordinator's Office
    Philippines

    posted by PATH @ 7/10/2007 10:14:00 AM   3 comments

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