By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – United Nations special rapporteurs, parliamentarians and human rights advocates from all over the world urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate the worsening human rights violations in the Philippines as it opened its 45th regular session on Monday, Sept. 14.
At least 700 organizations and individuals joined the Global Day of Action to #StopTheKillings in the Philippines. They called on the UNHRC to act on the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report and investigate the killings in the Philippines.
The two-hour online protest was led by Karapatan, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), 350 Pilipinas, among others.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard said that Bachelet’s report confirms the widespread killings in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, the killings of farmers, lawyers and other human rights defenders and the silencing of media and opposition.
She said with the continuous killings of more human rights defenders, the international community must act now.
Along with other 32 independent experts of the human rights system, Callamard urged the HRC to establish an on the ground international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, and strengthen the mandate of the human rights body of the UN to continue its monitoring and reporting on the human rights violations in the Philippines.
Callamard also called on the International Criminal Court to prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines. Relatives of drug-related killings filed a complaint with the ICC against Duterte for crimes against humanity.
Callamard also urged UN member States to “apply sanctions against Filipino officials who have committed, who have incited, or who have failed to investigate or prevent human rights violations including arbitrary killings.”
Callamard urged the UNHRC to “hear the voice civil society as well as the voice of the victims and their loved ones.”
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment Dr. David Boyd, meanwhile, said that the killings and other forms of abuse against environmental defenders in the Philippines are “totally unacceptable.”
“The people who are doing these acts in the Philippines, unfortunately, seem to have immunity from persecution,” said Boyd.
Based on the latest Global Witness Report, the Philippines is the second deadliest country for environmental defenders with a record of 43 environment defenders killed in 2019. In 2020, the Philippines is second to Colombia with 64 deaths. https://www.bulatlat.com/2020/08/13/ph-2nd-deadliest-for-environment-defenders-watchdog/
Boyd expressed solidarity with the “passionate human rights defenders” in the Philippines. “These people are not terrorists or criminals. They are heroes for the planet and we should celebrate them and not persecute them,” he said.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said that people must not accept these deaths as normal or inevitable.
“We are doing what we can to find ways in protecting human rights defenders in the work,” she said.
Digeo Garcia-Sayan, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, meanwhile, hopes that the UNHRC will be able to establish a systematic mechanism to investigate the killings in the country.
In his message, IADL Secretary General Jan Fermon said they are “honored to be beside the Filipino people and progressive activists but also sad and angry that such a day of action against killings is necessary.”
Fermon said the human rights violations in the Philippines has been intensifying under the present administration of President Duterte and therefore, people, without a doubt, should “speak of crimes against humanity as defined by the Statute of the Tribunal of Nuremberg and Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
“The struggle we are waging together with other non-government organizations around the world is first to stop the murderous frenzy of the Duterte administration. But it is also a commitment not to rest until all those involved in the hideous crimes will be held accountable and brought to justice,” Fermon said during the online protest.
Sen. Leila De Lima also joined the call for an investigation on the killings of activists in the Philippines as well as call to expedite the process in the ICC.
Parliamentarians from the European Union and Australia and leaders of CIVICUS, the APWLD, International Movement for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, World Organization Against Torture also expressed their call to the UN HRC for an independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines
Peter Murphy of ICHRP said today’s global rally is to further urge the UNHRC in “highlighting the ongoing outrages being perpetrated by the Duterte administration even in time of COVID-19.”
Murphy said that greater action is needed due to the criminalization of activists in the Philippines.
“The red tagging of leaders from student age to old age is rampant and it leads to the killings as we have seen in the recent cases of Jory Porquia, Carlito Badion, Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez,” said Murphy.
Murphy said supporters can make solidarity actions by challenging corporations which thrive the development aggression in the Philippines, by challenging their governments which provide military and economic aid to Duterte government and challenge governments to call out Duterte for criminal abuses at the UN and other international forums.
He also encouraged supporters to mobilize financial resources to aid court fees and bail bonds of community organizers who were arrested and detained.
“What is happening in the Philippines is happening in many other countries. These basic human rights to life, to education, health and to democratic freedoms belong to all of us and they are under threat. Our strong action today in what we see in the Philippines is part of the global solidarity of all oppressed peoples everywhere. Let us reach out to each other in solidarity. Together we are stonger in the worst times,” Murphy said.