UN Human Rights Committee urges Philippine government to stop red-tagging

The UNHRC said they are concerned at the “reports of increased crackdowns, including in the context of the government’s counter-terrorism and anti-illegal drug operations, on human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors to discourage them from carrying out their legitimate activities.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Rey Valmores, chairperson of Bahaghari, an LGBTQI organization, is the latest target of red-tagging in a show at SMNI. Its owner, Apollo Quiboloy, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list for numerous offenses including sex trafficking, is accusing their group as operatives of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

“Just last week, I and our group has been red-tagged in SMNI for four times. My face is being flashed on the screen,” said Valmores during the launching of the Citizens Rights Watch Network on Nov. 5.

Valmores believes that they are being targeted because of the recent wins of their group in asserting the rights of its stakeholders – the members of the LGBTQI community.

She said that prior to red-tagging, they assisted a transgender in Capiz State University. Apparently, the university wanted the transgender student to cut her hair. But through the assistance of Bahaghari, Valmores said, the university was forced to revise its student manual.

“We see a trend. People who work to help others are being red-tagged,” Valmores said, citing the red-tagging of community pantries, church people and even former Vice President Leni Robredo.

“Why do they accuse civilians, who are only giving their service to the people? Why are they being accused of being terrorists?” Valmores said.

Red-tagging is one of the issues raised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its concluding observation on the fifth periodic report on the Philippines released Nov. 3. The Philippine Government presented its fifth periodic report last October.

Read: What is Universal Periodic Review and why citizens must participate in it 

The UNHRC recommended to the Philippine government to end red-tagging of human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors.

Progressive groups and personalities who criticize the government are often the targets of red-tagging by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

To protect them and their members against the impacts of red-tagging such as filing of false charges or worse killing, the groups, particularly human rights group Karapatan and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, have filed protection measures to the Supreme Court. But these were denied by the Court of Appeals (CA).

Read: Court junks rights lawyers’ plea for protection
Read: CA junks rights defenders’ plea for protection 

The UNHRC said they are concerned at the “reports of increased crackdowns, including in the context of the government’s counter-terrorism and anti-illegal drug operations, on human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors to discourage them from carrying out their legitimate activities.”

“It is further concerned about reports of ‘red-tagging’ of human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors, further exposing them to death threats, intimidation, attacks, arbitrary arrest and detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings,” the UNHRC said.

The UNHRC also recommends the following;
(a) Take immediate steps to ensure the protection of human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors to enable them to exercise and promote human rights in a safe environment;
(b) Consider adopting the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill without delay;
(c) Promptly, independently and effectively investigate all human rights violations committed against human rights defenders, activists and other civil society actors, bringing the perpetrators to justice and providing victims with redress, including adequate compensation.

‘Investigate and prosecute all reported cases of past rights violations’

The UNHRC also recommends that the Philippine government should “investigate and prosecute in a timely manner all reported cases of past human rights violations.”

The government should also ensure that the “perpetrators are brought to justice that penalties imposed are commensurate with the severity of the offense, and that the victims or members of their families receive full reparation, including adequate compensation, and other legal, medical, psychological and rehabilitation services.”

In particular, the UNHRC said it regrets, what it described as significant delay in bringing perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre to justice and the large number of suspects who have not been arrested.

The UNHRC also expressed its concern about the sufficiency and coverage of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board.

Read: 11 years on, kin of Ampatuan massacre victims still searching for justice
Read: Martial Law Victims Insulted by Exclusion from List of Compensation Claimants
Read: HR claims board virtually ‘disenfranchises’ Martial Law victims

The UNHRC recommends that the government “should ensure that all victims of the past human rights violations have adequate access to compensation schemes, including under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act and that victims and their relatives who seek justice and redress are protected against intimidation and harassment.”

Unfair?

Meanwhile, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay responded to Senate President Miguel Zubiri’s statement that the UN’s evaluation of the Philippines is “unfair.”

“Mr. Senate President, ang kawalang-hustisya sa Pilipinas ay hindi lumang tugtugin (the absence of justice in the Philippines is not the same old song). It is a palpable, miserable, and seemingly insurmountable reality in the Philippines, especially under the current Marcos Jr. administration,” Palabay said in a statement.

She added that the UN experts’ observations are not invented, this is felt in the daily life of Filipinos, especially the victims and their families.

Palabay said that Zubiri “seems to encourage the public to forget the past and present atrocities and realities.”

“The facts, however, cannot be glossed over – that thousands were killed in the drug war and counterinsurgency programs in a not so long ago regime and the current Marcos Jr. administration continues to deny them (the) justice they deserve,” she added.

Palabay said that the 18-member UN HRC has looked at the facts, read the Philippine government’s report and asked questions, “poked at the answers of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and the rest of the government delegation, and did their due diligence in studying the facts on the human rights situation in the country and reports of civil society.”

“No amount of whining by Philippine government officials can unsettle their concluding observations,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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