“It is imperative that the Council heed the Filipino people’s call to conduct a probe on the rights violation under the Duterte administration amid impunity and failure of domestic mechanisms to provide redress to victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – An independent international investigating body once again urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct an investigation on the human rights violations in the Philippines.
Investigate Philippines (Investigate PH) started to conduct its own probe on human rights abuses in the Philippines under President Duterte last December 2020. It is set to release its third and final report on Monday, Sept. 13.
The group released two reports last March and July respectively as an update of the report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in June last year.
This latest report focuses on violations of economic, social and cultural rights of Filipino people as well as the denial of the people’s rights to self-determination, development and peace.
The group found that President Duterte’s submission to US domination and the implementation of neoliberal economic policies has deliberately violated the rights of the people.
The group specifically cited Duterte’s unilateral cancellation of the peace negotiation with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in November 2017, under pressure from then US President Donald Trump.
“Following this decision, seven peace consultants were killed by state security forces or unidentified assailants, with five of the seven being murdered after the June 2020 Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) report,” the group said in a statement.
Jeanne Mirer, president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said, “It is imperative that the Council heed the Filipino people’s call to conduct a probe on the rights violation under the Duterte administration amid impunity and failure of domestic mechanisms to provide redress to victims and hold perpetrators accountable.”
Investigate PH said that despite the lockdown implemented due to the pandemic, cases of human rights violations continued to increase, particularly after the release of the OHCHR report in June 2020.
Aside from the killings of peace consultants, they also made mention of the Tumandok Massacre and the Bloody Sunday raids. They noted that there is a 50 to 76 percent increase in drug related killings per month and that in the killing of activists, the nanlaban (fought back) narrative is used to justify the dastardly act.
The report also mentioned how policies, like Memorandum Order No. 32 and Executive Order No. 70 which established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), are used in order to utilize “local and national institutions to wage attacks against human rights defenders, people’s organizations and civil society through mass arrests and detention on trumped-up charges, red-tagging, and state-perpetrated killings.”
And with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the group observed that the abuses have worsened as this particular law “has become a main instrument in the counterinsurgency program and is used to vilify activists and their organizations and to criminalize dissent.”
“These mechanisms have expanded the powers of security forces, nationalized the counterinsurgency program, broadened invasive scrutiny across all sectors of society, and institutionalized the label of ‘terrorist’ as a catch-all to criminalize any political opposition,” the report read.
Help the victims, hold Duterte accountable
The group stressed that the domestic mechanism in the Philippines have immensely failed to give justice to the victims. This is why the group is pressing the UN to investigate the human rights situation in the Philippines.
Last year, after High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet released her report, the United Nations Human Rights Council launched an investigation, however the response to its investigation only recommended that for it to only extend technical cooperation and capacity building to the government. The resolution was approved in October last year during its 45th regular session.
Victims, families and human rights group saw this to be insufficient in exacting accountability from the government.
Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice said that the fact that these three reports of Investigate PH have been put together over the last year “is going to increase the pressure on the UN to actually seriously realize that they they got to do more.”
“The evidence that were complied in this report really showed things haven’t improved and got worse. And so clearly campaigns and actions in all of the countries influencing UN to take more action is of critical importance,” Senator Rice said during the press conference.
She said that these reports are a model for other communities to document human rights abuses as part of prompting action both in the country and globally.
The Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson of the World Communion of Reformed Churches meanwhile stressed that “international pressure is using all the mechanisms at our disposal. I think that the question is is to not be passive, we are not just going to observe or launching our report by words.”
“It is incumbent on state actors, non-government actors, church group and every body to ensure impact that those international instruments that still exists like International Criminal Court do their job. And we are in a time where people defending their human rights is being corroded by the international community so I think the impact will be clear in calling the whole of the international community (to release) government and non-government manifestations to actually hold this government into account,” he added.
Ferguson again called on the High Commissioner and the UNHRC to mobilize international mechanisms to help victims and hold Duterte and other state perpetrators accountable.