Rights groups criticize government’s red-tagging at UN

The group said they “find it hollow and hypocritical for the Philippine government to feign at the 43rd UN Human Rights Council session that they are open to dialogue then proceeds in incorrigibly mouthing hate speech against human rights defenders legitimately seeking succor for vicious human rights violations.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – “We are here, we fight our fear, get used to it.”

This is the statement of Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay and co-head of Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) as they are about to end their two-week visit in Geneva, Switzerland in time for the 43rd regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the Palais Des Nations.

The EcuVoice is composed of different rights groups based in Manila. They went to Geneva to follow up their submissions related to the Iceland-led resolution in July last year.

The group vow to continue their fight against the blatant rights violations against Filipinos.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) President and concurrent International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) interim president Edre U. Olalia said that the “government is mistaken in thinking their denials have any currency among both member and observer-countries of the UNHRC.”

“It is also mistaken in thinking its attacks on the UN system and EcuVoice’s presence here is beneficial to the reputation of the Philippine government. No one believes that the blood flowing in our streets and [warm] bodies filling our jails are merely imagined,” Olalia said.

According to EcuVoice, the Philippine government delegation to the UN has not responded to the issues raised by the group and instead vilified human rights groups, a sign of defiance to the reports by UN experts.

Read also: ‘Why is the government picking fights at the UN?’ PH rights defenders ask 

‘Hollow and hypocritical’

EcuVoice also denounced the Philippine government’s claim during its speech to the UNHRC regular session that it is “open to address allegations of human rights violations in the country, through domestic accountability mechanisms, on the basis of fact.”

The group said they “find it hollow and hypocritical for the Philippine government to feign at the 43rd UN Human Rights Council session that they are open to dialogue then proceeds in incorrigibly mouthing hate speech against human rights defenders legitimately seeking succor for vicious human rights violations.”

On March 9, Ambassador Evan P. Garcia, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN addressed the UN, claiming that the allegations of EcuVoice and Karapatan have no basis.

Garcia also reiterated in his speech that the Council should be able “to distinguish between honest advocates of human rights and opportunists” and then alleged that the group is affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

“Witness how the government offers contrived and empty offers of dialogue with EcuVoice and Karapatan but continues to churn out hostile and vicious red-tagging threats against us in the same breath,” Olalia said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Palabay said that their group and others have availed of all the domestic measures available in the Philippines from local administrative, legislative and judicial fora to file and seek redress for the numerous cases of rights violations.

“These local remedies have been unduly prolonged, ineffective and even frustrating and illusory for the victims,” Palabay said.

Read: CA junks rights defenders’ plea for protection

She said that they face not only ridiculous trumped-up charges but even reprisal suits only because they use other available parallel and complementary international mechanisms.

“We file complaints and communications at the UN and the International Criminal Court, but rather than simply replying and addressing the issues and concerns head on, the government continues without fail to go berserk. It is obsessed with false and malicious accusations not just against us but even disrespects the UN experts themselves,” she said.

Contrary to the Philippine government’s statement, the group said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) have been dispatched abroad, “for their serial roadshow for the singular intention of maligning and endangering the liberties of human rights defenders and deflecting legitimate criticisms and complaints through offensive damage control.”

Meanwhile, the EcuVoice will be once again at the United Nations in Geneva in June for the 44th regular session of the UNHRC. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is expected to present the comprehensive report on human rights situation in the Philippines. The group hopes that the UN will pass a stronger resolution calling for actual investigations and more concrete actions on reports of rights violations by the government of President Duterte.

“What we do here in Geneva entails a lot of sacrifice, including being away from our families and at risk of reprisals. But we do it in the hope that, with the help of the international community, the wanton violation of our rights and freedoms in the Philippines would be abated if not stopped,” said Palabay. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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