No let-up on the quest for justice

In October 2022, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla led the government delegation during the fifth periodic review of the Philippines by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland.

The result was just as expected. On November 4, the UN Human Rights Committee released its concluding observations, calling out the Philippine government on its woeful human rights record. No amount of whitewashing and platitudes can convince the world it is doing enough.

Specifically, the UN committee said the Philippine government “should investigate and prosecute in a timely manner all cases of past human rights violations and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.” It added that the government “should review and amend the Anti-Terrorism Act” as it violates international covenants that were ratified by the Philippine government. The Committee is very clear - the Philippine government should put an end to red-tagging, as it further exposes activists, human rights defenders and individuals to death threats, intimidation, attacks, arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Most damningly, the Committee directly pointed a finger at State forces for the perpetuation of extrajudicial killings, torture and many other forms of repression and inhumane treatment of civilians.

Should the Marcos Jr. administration send a delegation on November 14 when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) convenes for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines, it must expect these damning observations to be presented again. The Marcos Jr. government must realize that nothing short of an honest admission of the human rights situation in the Philippines would make this government believable in the eyes of the world. And if the Philippine government wishes respect, it must sincerely promise to stop human rights violations and prosecute past perpetrators.

The Philippine UPR Watch will participate in this important international process. We will be there to urge United Nations Human Rights Council member states to compel the Marcos Jr. government to stop the killings, to stop the harassment and threats.

Our delegation is composed of lawyers, church workers, environmentalists, medical professionals, indigenous peoples groups, journalists, activists and families of victims of extrajudicial killings and unjust arrests.

Prior to our trip, the Philippine UPR Watch also engaged with various UN offices and diplomatic missions to present the real human rights situation in the Philippines. We expect many of them, particularly UNHRC member states, to provide meaningful interventions during the November 14 discussions.

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation will meet with more diplomatic missions to the UN, individual experts, as well as international organizations. We will also be holding side events inside the UN headquarters, as well as among churches throughout Switzerland. On November 14, we are prepared to monitor the UPR as testament to the Philippine government’s violations of our own individual and collective rights and liberties. Most of us are victims of state-sponsored threats and attacks after all.

We will confirm and validate firsthand to the international community that the Philippine government has reneged on its
commitment to respect and uphold the rights of the Filipino people, and it perpetuated and institutionalized impunity for violations. We are not letting up on the quest to hold the Philippine government accountable for its transgressions on people’s rights, past and present.

*Attached is the full copy of the Concluding Observations of the UN Human Rights Committee on the fifth periodic report of the Philippines. It can also be accessed through this link:
https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR%2fC%2fPHL%2fCO%2f5&Lang=en