|NGOs accuse exec of abuse, harassment
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).