Zubiri is insensitive to human rights violations victims

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s attempt to feign ignorance on the continuing human rights violations and the utter lack of justice and accountability in the Philippines reeks of insensitivity and brazen disregard of the sordid plight of thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations and their kin.

Senator Zubiri was way out of tune in his response to media questions about damning international observations on the human rights situation in the Philippines. If the issue of extrajudicial killings is to be regarded as “lumang tugtugin” at all, it is because the killings have been going on for so long.

Senator Zubiri is wrong in citing the Percy Lapid case in trying to prove his point. Lapid’s brutal murder has not yet been solved. Allegations of who the mastermind/s is/are, the presentation of an alleged gunman, the mysterious death of an alleged middleman who was in prison, and bickering among government officials is not—by any stretch of the imagination—“case closed” or justice.

Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch believes that the Philippine media are always ready to publish and broadcast good news about the Philippines. They do not have to be asked if and when they see it as truth. But when their colleagues are being killed while they see widespread deprivation of the people, it is wrong to blame their reportage on the government’s negative reputation in the eyes of the world.

The killing of a broadcaster, the second within the first 100 days of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government, shows that the Philippine media and Filipinos in general are not free. Not when their rights and freedoms are as easily snuffed out as Percy Lapid’s.

We wish to tell the Senate President, ang kawalang-hustisya sa Pilipinas ay hindi lumang tugtugin. It is a brutal reality in the Philippines, as bloody under the current Marcos Jr. administration as it was during the Rodrigo Duterte regime. Hindi ito imbento ng UN experts;  kitang kita ito sa araw-araw na buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino, laluna ng mga biktima at kanilang pamilya.

Mr. 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. Where are the thousands of successful prosecutions and final convictions for such violations? Where is the current government’s resolve and will to go after perpetrators in government, among the police, military, and top officials including former President Duterte? What policy shifts have deterred perpetrators of violations from continuing these acts? NONE.

The 18-member UN Human Rights Committee has clearly looked at the facts, after years of the Philippine government’s decade-long delay of being subjected to such a review. They’ve read the Philippine government’s report and asked questions, poked at the answers of DOJ Sec. 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.

The Philippine UPR Watch is here in Geneva to participate in the discussions on the state of human rights in the Philippines on November 14 and bear witness that violations are continuing, as the UN have repeatedly said. The unsolved murders of Crisanto and Juan Carlos Pasco, sons of delegation member and Rise Up for Life and for Rights member Llore Pasco, are proof. We have also brought well-documented reports and complaints of human rights violations under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.  If the senator wants good press about the Philippines, he must encourage the Philippine government to stop the killings and bring the perpetrators to justice instead.