MANILA, Philippines – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) does not have the political will and capacity to create a human rights court in the region because there are member states that are still getting acquainted with the real meaning of human rights and are just beginning to manage and internalize it in their own society.

Philippine Representative to the High Level Panel on the ASEAN Human Rights Body Ambassador Rosario Manalo said prosecution in human rights cases and the creation of the court similar to Europe is not seen in the near future.

This development came as former senator and Secretary of National Defense Orlando Mercado presented his Letter of Credence as the Philippine Permanent Representative to ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia last March.

“No. We do not see it, but do not close that possibility,” Manalo said.

“For the moment, not only is there no political will but there is also no capacity of the member-states to do it. There is no capacity in the region to create a court of human rights in Southeast Asia,” she said.

The creation of the ASEAN Human Rights Body (AHRB) under the ASEAN Charter ratified by the member-countries is a policy-formulation body for the region with limited scope.

The regional human rights watchdog, which should be launched in October, will not have the power to investigate human rights violations in the ASEAN.

Even in the absence of investigative power, Manalo, one of the drafters of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the AHRB, said the strongest power of the body for the moment involves access to information, education and training that are instruments to provide capacity and understand what human rights really mean.

Meantime, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Permanent Representative Orlando Mercado was accompanied by Philippine embassy officials and Administrative Officer of the Philippine Mission to ASEAN Yusuf Usudan when he presented his Letter of Credence at the ASEAN Secretariat in Indonesia last March 20.–Pia Lee-Brago,Philippine Star