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.
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.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH) 45 Matimtiman St., cor. Magiting St., Teachers' Village East Quezon City 1101, Philippines Tel. No: (632) 921-8049 Telefax: (632) 926-2893
You can also donate to PATH by clicking on the ads below
The book about the CPP-NPA Purges
"Bobby Garcia provides a riveting account of the Communist Party of the Philippines' "killing fields" and situates it within the context of a revolutionary movement that was nobly motivated but also tragically flawed. To Suffer Thy Comrades goes beyond Garcia's narrative of his and other survivors' harrowing experiences and explains why the purges took place, how both torturers and victims coped and made sense of their plight, and how they survived in the aftermath of the purge. The book sheds light on the darkest and deepest secrets of the revolutionary movement and provides insights that are useful now that the communists are negotiating peace with the government" - SHEILA CORONEL, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
"...Bobby Garcia had the courage to write about the 'killing fields' despite some people's efforts to dissuade him. Bobby was one of its victims -- he was 21 when his entire future was nearly taken away from him -- who was lucky enough to survive. And who is even luckier to retain a huge sense of humor and equanimity, even when talking about his ordeal, at least with friends. His book is called "To Suffer Thy Comrades"...It is certainly not something that will set your mind at rest. But read it anyway. Its virtue is to be found in that biblical observation, 'The truth shall set you free.' - CONRADO DE QUIROS, Philippine Daily Inquirer