Rights groups to exhaust other venues to hold Duterte accountable

“In due time, we will get justice.”


MANILA – Human rights defenders in the Philippines will exhaust other other venues available to ensure that President Duterte will be held accountable for rights violations in the Philippines.

In an online media briefing on Sept. 30, members of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) enumerated other efforts to compel the Philippine government to comply with its international obligations.

Mervin Toquero, program secretary of National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said the case filed by the families of victims of drug-related killings against Duterte before the International Criminal Court is pending.

The ICC had begun its preliminary examination of the allegations against Duterte despite the Philippines’ withdrawal from the Rome Statute in March 2018. The result of the preliminary examination is expected to be released this year.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, meanwhile, cited the proposed Philippine Human Rights Act which was filed with the US Congress last month. The bill seeks to suspend US government funding of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police until certain reforms are made by the Philippine government.

Palabay added that foreign governments supportive of human rights defenders in the Philippines can also conduct their own fact-finding missions in the Philippine such as Europe, Canada and Australia as well as other international non-government organizations.

She said they are also looking at the recommendation of the European Union lawmakers for the temporary withdrawal of the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status of the Philippines, should the human rights situation in the Philippines will not be improved.

GSP+ is the special incentive arrangement given by the EU for sustainable development and good governance. It slashes tariffs to zero percent 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.

Palabay also said that there is always an opportunity to push for Duterte’s accountability in the United Nations Human Rights Council in its regular sessions in the future. She said that whatever comes out in the present session of the UNHRC will not stop them from seeking justice.

“There are ways forward. But certainly, the international community has a role in attaining justice, especially [since] the domestic mechanisms are severely compromised,” Palabay said.

Toquero recalled that the high-level visit of then UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Summary Executions Philip Alston to the Philippines in 2007 contributed in the campaign for the promotion of human rights. He noted that after Alston released his report, the cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines decreased.

For his part, Edre Olalia, national president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), is hopeful that a special tribunal would be created in the future to try Duterte of his crimes against the Filipino people. “In due time, we will get justice,” he said.

Palabay also underscored that a strong people’s movement inside the country is important in pushing for an end to impunity. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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