European lawmakers asked the Philippine authorities to “guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders and journalists in the country, and to ensure that they can carry out their work in an enabling environment and without fear of reprisals.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The European Parliament expressed its strong support to the human rights defenders and their work as attacks against them have worsened under President Duterte’s administration.
In a joint motion seeking a resolution on the situation in the Philippines, the European lawmakers expressed their deep concern over what they described as “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under President Duterte.”
They called on Philippine government to adopt and implement the recommendations made in the report of United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet which was released on June 30 at the 44th session of UN Human Rights Council.
They also urged the EU and its member states to “support the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council to establish an independent international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016.”
The members of the European parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the resolution dated Sept. 16. The resolution was reportedly adopted with 626 votes in favor, seven against and 52 abstention.
The European lawmakers also expressed condemnation on all forms of rights violations committed against those who expose human rights abuses in the country, the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs, the weaponization of the law to silence its critics, the attacks against journalists particularly the persecution of Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa. The resolution also called on Philippine government to renew the franchise of media corporation, ABS-CBN.
They also expressed serious concern over the enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Law saying that “in no circumstance can advocacy, protest, dissent, strikes and other similar exercise of civil and political rights be considered terrorist acts.”
They also called for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima while she awaits trial and drop all politically motivated charges against her.
‘Recognize human rights defenders role’
In the resolution, the European lawmakers urged the Philippine authorities “to recognize that human rights defenders play a legitimate role in guaranteeing peace, justice and democracy.”
They asked the Philippine authorities to “guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders and journalists in the country, and to ensure that they can carry out their work in an enabling environment and without fear of reprisals.”
Citing the recent killing of activists Jory Porquia, Randall ‘Randy’ Echanis and Zara Alvarez, the European Parliament urged the authorities to immediately conduct impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings and other alleged rights violations.
The European Parliament called on the Senate and Duterte to immediately act on the Human Rights Defenders Law, which was passed by the House of Representatives.
The European lawmakers also recommended temporarily withdrawing the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status, should the human rights situation in the Philippines will not be improved. GSP+ is the special incentive arrangement given by EU for sustainable development and good governance. It slashes tariffs to 0% for vulnerable low and lower-middle income countries that implement 27 international conventions related to human rights, labour rights, protection of the environment and good governance.
They also called on EU Delegation and Member States’ representations in the Philippines “to strengthen their support for civil society in their engagement with Philippine authorities, and to use all available instruments to increase their support for human rights and environmental defenders’ work, and, where appropriate, to facilitate the issuing of emergency visas, and provide temporary shelter in the EU Member States.”
‘Welcome step towards reckoning and accountability’
Human rights alliance Karapatan welcomed the European Parliament’s resolution saying that it is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay thanked the six political parties that initiated the resolution and the members of the parliament who supported and adopted it as well.
“We hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” Palabay said.