Prevalence of impunity, rights violations belies gov’t’s claims on HR situation in PH in UN treaty body’s human rights review

A decade since its last review, the Philippine government will undergo scrutiny by the UN Human Rights Committee on October 11 and 12, 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland on its compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the treaty body’s recommendations in its 2012 review.

Based on reports, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla will be leading the Philippine government’s delegation in the review in the next two days (9pm to 12midnight PHT).

Human rights groups Karapatan and Tanggol Bayi, which submitted an alternative report and a list of submissions for the treaty body process, said that during the period since the last review, a human rights crisis gripped the Philippines spanning the administrations of Benigno Aquino III and Rodrigo Duterte. Such crisis continues to this day, they stated, with the worsened climate of impunity and continuing human rights violations under the Marcos Jr. administration.

Based on the Philippine government’s report to the Committee and recent statements of Sec. Remulla before the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council, “it continues to portray a rosy picture of the human rights situation in the country, when the most pressing issues on justice and accountability in the extrajudicial killings and other rights violations are known to the international community,” said Karapatan Secretary General and Tanggol Bayi convener Cristina Palabay.

“No diligent observer of the situation in the Philippines will ever buy the claims on ‘real justice in real time’ and of ‘transformational reforms’ in the justice system, especially when human rights violations continue to be perpetrated by State forces on the ground every day and when repressive policies are being implemented. With two journalists and ten peasants and civilians killed in the first 100 days of the Marcos Jr. administration, with 91 victims killed in the drug war as monitored by Dahas PH, and with the lack of effective domestic remedies, it is clear that the current administration is party to the worsened climate of impunity in the past ten years,” she said, citing portions of Sec. Remulla’s statement at the HRC.

The rights groups also highlighted the increased attacks against human rights defenders, political dissenters and critics via extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention and threats, including red- and terrorist-tagging, during the period of review.

“Rights defenders have become more susceptible to attacks. Former Sen. Leila de Lima remains detained and her security in danger, as all 842 political prisoners arbitrarily detained on trumped up charges. Judges, members of the academe, members of parliament, and activists face threats,” the groups said.

What is more disturbing is the use of laws on counter-terrorism impacting on the freedom of association, free expression, and other civil liberties, despite the Committee’s previous comments on the Human Security Act of 2007 in their Concluding Observations, the groups observed.

“Human rights defenders from faith-based and humanitarian organizations are persecuted and charged with terrorism, while scholars and journalists are gagged with directives invoking these draconian laws,” they said.

“We hope that the UN Human Rights Committee will seriously consider recommendations for the UN’s independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay concluded.

The groups will be participating in the informal session with members of the Committee. They are also set to participate in the November 2022 Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines, as part of a delegation of human rights defenders under Philippine UPR Watch.

*Copy of alternative reports cited: https://bit.ly/3qA7U5Z