PH UPR Watch to UN Human Rights Council: Investigate human rights situation in PH

Broadcast commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa was brutally and brazenly murder last Monday, October 4, 2022. He is the second journalist to have been murdered under the Marcos Jr. administration. Only last September 18, broadcaster Rey Blanco was knifed to death in Negros. Their deaths—the 197th and 196th case of media killings since the supposed restoration of Philippine democracy in 1986 - came slightly more than two weeks apart, an ominous sign of what the people may expect from this new government.

It is not only by killing that murderers resort to when they want to silence journalists and other perceived dissenters. Last month, a provincial governor and her husband (a public works and highways regional director) reportedly filed a total of 941 cyberlibel charges against two broadcasters, using “lawfare” and power to intimidate critics into submission or silence. There are also dozens of new cyber-libel and trumped up cases filed against journalists and critics throughout the country since July 1, 2022.
Truth seekers and critics in the Philippines are at the receiving end of the pointed end of the State’s spear. Last August, poet and martial law survivor Adora Faye de Vera was arbitrarily arrested and detained, despite being sick and in need of medical care. Peasant, indigenous and labor leaders and members of organizations are being harassed to make them stop their activities. Human rights defenders are being charged with trumped up charges. Vicious redtagging by forces identified with the State has intensified, not sparing judges and rights lawyers, while there is approval by silence from the top.

These latest attacks on people’s rights under the three month old Marcos Jr. administration are a continuation of what has been a State policy of killing, harassment, threat and intimidation during the Duterte administration.

Today, a high-level Philippine government delegation, led by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla will address the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The delegation is also expected to participate in the UN Human Rights Committee review. The Remulla-led mission is expected to harp on the country’s imagined functioning judiciary to hoodwink the international community into giving the brand new Marcos government a chance. Should it succeed, it could only mean doom not just for journalists, lawyers and judges, unionists, church and health workers, environmentalists, women and children’s welfare advocates, and other rights defenders but ordinary Filipinos as well who suffer under this crippling regime of impunity.

During the session at the HRC, civil society organizations will deliver oral statements. We will tell the truth about the state of human rights in the Philippines, which had been in crisis for the longest time but more so under the past Duterte and the current Marcos Jr. governments.

We are encouraged by the warning issued by the Manila embassies of France, Canada and The Netherlands that the unabated media killings only create a chilling effect among truth tellers in the country. We are likewise heartened by the rejection of the International Criminal Court prosecutor of the Philippine government’s position that the country’s justice system adequately prosecutes rights violators in the drug war. We are sustained by the UN Assistant Secretary General’s report last week affirming our position that reprisals against human rights defenders in the Philippines continue. We acknowledge the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on her serious concerns on the continuing human rights violations against civil society and killings in the drug war.

Diplomacy and due process compel member States of the UN HRC to listen to what the Philippine government has to say. But human rights advocates in the Philippines believe that the international community are informed on the real situation - the continuing human rights violations and the prevalent impunity in the country. We call on the Human Rights Council to keep watch on the Philippines and take decisive steps to substantively address the human rights situation and to heed the Filipinos’ call for justice and accountability.