22 October 2012

Reaffirming the Aquino Administration's commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, the Department of Justice issued last 18 October 2012 Department Circular No. 058 or the rules on "Establishing the Refugee and Stateless Status Determination Procedure."

As a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, the Philippines has been progressively implementing its obligations under the Convention, ensuring refugees' access to economic and social rights. Department of Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima confirmed that it was only during the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III when the Philippine Government finally acceded to the 1954 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. She
explained that while the Department, as early as 1998, already had a Refugee Processing Unit ("RPU"), such unit, however, did not have the mandate to cater to the needs of stateless individuals.

De Lima explained that under the present rules, the DOJ's Refugee Protection Unit (RPU), renamed to Refugee and Stateless Persons Protection Unit ("RSPPU"), will help ensure that this highly vulnerable group of refugees and stateless persons will have access to a facilitated, prompt and efficient process application for the granting of a refugee or a stateless status. The said rules and mechanisms also provide for the standard of proof to establish such status and, more importantly, allow for the suspension of deportation proceedings pending consideration of the application. She underscored, further, that recognition of stateless or refugee status will directly benefit both the applicant and his or her family members, entitling them the enjoyment and exercise of rights and privileges provided for by the United Nations Conventions on refugees and
stateless persons subject to Philippine laws and regulations.

 "The refugees and the stateless persons are the most vulnerable. They fall easily through the cracks of our system," says De Lima. "Consider the challenge of having no Government to safeguard your rights. You have no Government that will ensure yours and your family's physical security. Even a stateless or refugee child's identification becomes a contentious issue unless the receiving country has safety nets and mechanisms in place that will ensure and declare to the world that such child matters, that he or she counts." De Lima points out, "The enjoyment of basic human rights and freedoms should never be dependent on the presence or absence of a person's nationality or his affinity to his country. The universality of human rights and the respect thereof demands a standard of treatment from the Government that is not only tolerant but accepting and inclusive."

The Rules will be effective and executory fifteen (15) days from publication.

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