“It is very clear that no amount of technical assistance or capacity building will end the killings as the President and top government officials continue to incite murder and violence as official policy.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Stressing that the previous resolution of the United National Human Rights Council “has proven to be utterly insufficient to address the systematic human rights violations and persistent impunity” in the Philippines, eight human rights organizations called on the UNHRC to set up a mechanism to end violence and impunity in the Philippines.
In a joint oral statement delivered by Cecile Gaa before the 46th session of the UNHRC, the human rights groups declared, “It is very clear that no amount of technical assistance or capacity building will end the killings as the President and top government officials continue to incite murder and violence as official policy.”
The groups were referring to the UNHRC’s resolution during its 45th session extending technical assistance to the Philippines instead of investigating rights violations stated in the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) report last year.
Gaa delivered the statement on behalf of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen the Participation, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Human Rights Watch, the Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on March 22, for Item 10 on the General Debate on technical cooperation and capacity building.
The groups lamented that after the report of the OHCHR last year, killings under the government’s campaign against illegal drugs have continued. They added that human rights defenders, lawyers were also attacked and were accused of being members of terrorist groups, and some were arrested and jailed.
“The draconian Anti-Terrorism Act, passed last year, exacerbates risks to defenders. The killing of nine human rights defenders and activists on March7, two days after President Duterte ordered the police and military to ‘finish off’ and ‘kill’ those purported to be ‘communist rebels,’ illustrates clearly the persistent killings and attacks faced by activists and defenders,” the groups said.
In such context, the groups maintained that “it is imperative that the Council set up an international accountability mechanism to end the cycle of violence and impunity in the Philippines.”
The groups also noted that the Philippine government has made “no tangible progress towards accountability against those most responsible for such killings.”
The government through the Department of Justice held a human rights summit last year but rights groups said that it is futile if stakeholders were not involved and the killings and wrongful arrests of activists persist.
Rights groups also pointed out that there has been no significant progress in DOJ’s Administrative Order No. 35 which created a the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Other Grave Violations of the Right of Life, Liberty and Security of Persons in 2012.
In 2020, Karapatan recorded at least 83 more extrajudicial killings of legal activists, human rights defenders among others. The group also recorded 3,675 arrests under Duterte, 1,040 of whom were detained.
According to the report of Investigate PH, an international independent body that investigates rights violations in the Philippines, these arrests involved the use of faulty warrants, entry without a judicial order, illegal searches, and planting of evidence especially weapons which result in non-bailable charges.