Press Release
November 6, 2008


Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon is in Geneva , Switzerland until this weekend to discuss the status of the International Humanitiarian Law (IHL) Bill he filed in the Philippine Senate.

Gordon who is also a Governor of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is attending the ongoing 18th Session of the Governing Board of IFRC in Geneva . The world meet is from November 5 to 7, 2008.

He was elected to the highest governing body of the IFRC that oversees 186 member societies that work in consonance with seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

Gordon authored Senate Bill 2511, also known as the "Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law and Other Serious International Crimes," which if passed into law, is expected to "codify crimes against humanity within the domestic legal system to fully comply with Philippine obligations under various treaties and conventions; keep pace with the developments of international criminal law; and more importantly, to insure that those who commit the most graves of crimes - of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity - are not afforded impunity for their acts."

"The bill finds its basis in IHL, otherwise referred to as the law of armed conflict. This set of rules aims to limit the horrors of war by ensuring that persons who do not take a direct part in hostilities are protected, and that captured combatants are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and conviction. The main treaties include the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Convention," said Gordon.

Other topics of the confab are humanitarian diplomacy wherein the IHL will be discussed, global program for Africa, plans for the 150th anniversary of the Battle for Solferino, rules for disaster relief, global migration, policy on volunteering, and HIV/AIDS. Gordon said the IFRC recently called on journalists and fellow humanitarians to work harder to publicize African success stories such as the huge drop in measles deaths and progress in the battle against malaria and HIV.

"As the 7th Pan-African Conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was held recently in South Africa, the International Federation launched its "Believe in Africa" campaign in a bid to roll back the media stereotype of the continent as a "basket case" from which people, including donors, turn away in despair," Gordon said.

Independent media monitoring carried out for the Federation shows most western coverage of Africa is negative. A parallel canvass of perceptions of Africa held by senior officials, including ministers, in western donor-nations reveals the majority are actually "optimistic" about Africa 's future. Only two of more than 30 decision-makers interviewed were actually "pessimistic".

Most policymakers believe the media "are branding Africa in a negative way", as one put it and almost all agreed, humanitarian actors such as the International Federation should do more to publicize African successes.

"As humanitarians appealing to donors we face essentially the same dilemma as journalists," said Gordon. "It's our duty to bring hidden humanitarian crises to light and advocate on behalf of people who may lack food and decent health care.

Gordon said the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Solferino in Italy will showcase the reenactment of the battle in which 40,000 men were killed or wounded in a single day as the French and Piedmontese drove the Austrians out of the north of Italy.

Arriving on this scene, Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross and a businessman from Geneva, was horrified to find the wounded soldiers lying abandoned on the field and he mobilized the local population and provided relief from the resources available.. This paved the way for Dunant's founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the IFRC, the worldwide organizations of the Red Cross.

Gordon said that on his return to Geneva, he will revisit the memorial of Dunant who wrote "A Memory of Solferino", in which he proposed that the States should "formulate some international principle, sanctioned by a convention, inviolate in character, which, once approved and ratified, might serve as the basis for societies for the relief of the wounded". General Dufour, the jurist Moynier, Dunant and two doctors Appia and Maunoir established the International Committee for the relief to the wounded soldiers and drew up the First Geneva Convention.

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