By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Stop the fakery and cut the show.”
This is the statement of human rights group Karapatan in response to the statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the upcoming visit of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Irene Khan this week.
According to DFA, Khan’s visit “signifies the open, sustained and sincere cooperation of the Philippine government with bilateral and regional partners and the UN, on many fronts, where the country promotes its human rights-based development agenda and good governance as well as its contributions in strengthening global norms to uphold human rights and dignity.”
The DFA added that the Special Rapporteur’s visit is an opportunity for her “to appreciate the well-rooted and flourishing democracy of the Philippines, as the oldest democratic Republic in Asia, as seen in the vibrant media landscape and civic space.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement that “integrity in cooperation with international human rights mechanisms means heeding recommendations of these international experts and bodies, consistent with a State’s obligations under human rights treaties, conventions and declarations.”
Palabay said that the Philippine government has disregarded, shrugged off, and rejected past recommendations by UN special rapporteurs who visited the country.
“They are faking these all, as the Marcos Jr. [administration] has stepped up its policy of wanton repression against the people, violating rights and basic freedoms including our freedom of expression,” Palabay said.
She said that Marcos Jr. “treats international engagements as ‘all niceties’ and ‘opportunities merely to boost his tainted image before the international community.’”
“Meanwhile, real figures and real issues on human rights haunt his administration, and the outright disregard of such issues reflects his callousness,” Palabay said, adding that killings under the government’s campaign against illegal drugs continue, as well as the counterinsurgency program.
The use of the Anti-Terrorism Act against dissenters is also in full swing and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has strengthened its terror-tagging spree, Palabay said.
As of November 2023, Karapatan has documented 87 extrajudicial killings under the Marcos Jr. administration. The group also documented 12 victims of enforced disappearance; 316 victims of illegal and arbitrary arrest; 22,391 victims of bombing; 39,769 victims of indiscriminate firing; 24,670 victims of forced evacuation; 552 victims of forced surrender; and 1,609,49 6 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation, including red-tagging.
No action on UN Special Rapporteurs’ recommendations
Palabay lamented that recommendations of past UN special rapporteurs to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines have not been acted upon by the government.
“Worse, the government’s policy, the very issues that were investigated upon and addressed by the UN rapporteurs, are continued,” Palabay said.
She cited the report of Prof. Philip Alston in 2008 to the UN Human Rights Council after his visit to the Philippines in 2007 when he was the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.
“In his report, Alston pointed out the responsibility of the government, military and police in the targeted killings and enforced disappearances of political activists and those tagged as rebel supporters as part of the counter-insurgency campaign of the State, stating that counter-insurgency operations ‘result in the extrajudicial killings of leftist activists,’ and in some areas, ‘they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification,’” Palabay said.
Alston also recommended concrete steps that the Philippine government should do to address and abate rights violations. These include the Philippine government, then under the administration of President Gloria Macapag Arroyo, desisting “from such forms of vilification as it has resulted to grave violations.”
Palabay also noted the recommendation of UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human rights in the Context of Climate Change Dr. Ian Fry in November last year calling for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC as well as the rescinding of the ATA, saying that they are being weaponized against environmental activists in the Philippines.
Palabay added that “numerous recommendations during the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review and at the UN Human Rights Committee on the human rights situation in the Philippines have also been put forward and yet, the Marcos Jr. administration persists with its denialism on the violations committed in the country.”
Read: UN expert bats for disbanding of ‘anti-communist’ task force, repeal of Anti-Terrorism Act
Read: UN Human Rights Committee urges Philippine government to stop red-tagging
Read: UNHRC Urges RP to ‘completely eliminate’ tortures, slays; as RP report is adopted by UN rights body
Palabay stressed that the Philippine government should stop making events such as the visit of Khan to the country, “as window dressing before the international community.”
“We are raising concerns about serious issues where life and death matter for Filipinos. Instead of using Khan’s visit in its PR blitz to deodorize the Philippine government’s record on free expression, the government should heed and implement previous and upcoming recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and international human rights mechanisms,” Palabay said.
Khan will be visiting the Philippines to look into issues concerning free expression and opinion from January 23 to February 2.
Last week, Karapatan along with journalists and artists and other groups launched #FightToExpress campaign in time for Khan’s visit. They urged Khan to investigate the dangerous patterns of human rights violations on the people’s right to freedom of expression and opinion in the country. (DAA)