Civicus and Karapatan joint submission to the 41th session of the Universal Period Review

The Republic Of the Philippines
Joint Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review
41st Session of the UPR Working Group

Submitted on 31 March

Submission by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation,
NGO in General Consultative Status with ECOSOC
And
Karapatan Alliance Philippines

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CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Lisa Majumdar
lisa.majumdar@civicus.org
Susan Wilding
susan.wilding@civicus.org
+41 22 733 3435
www.civicus.org

Karapatan Alliance Philippines

karapatan@karapatan.org
+632 4354146
www.karapatan.org

1. Introduction

1.1 CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has members in more than 180 countries throughout the world.

1.2 Karapatan is a human rights alliance that conducts research and campaigns to advocate for human rights, and monitors and documents human rights violations in the Philippines.

1.3 In this submission, the two organisations examine the compliance of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (hereafter the Philippines) with its international human rights obligations to create and maintain a safe and enabling environment for civil society. Specifically, we analyse the Philippines’ fulfilment of the rights to the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression and unwarranted restrictions on human rights defenders (HRDs) since its previous UPR examination in May 2017.

1.4 During the 3rd UPR cycle, the Government of the Philippines received 12 recommendations relating to these rights. All were noted. Since then, the Government of the Philippines has partially implemented three of these recommendations. The situation with regard to the rights to the freedoms of association and expression and HRDs has worsened.

1.5 We are deeply concerned by systematic intimidation, attacks and vilification of civil society and activists, an increased crackdown on media freedoms and the emerging prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity. Often, crackdowns have taken place under the guise of anti-terrorism or national security interests.

1.6 On 14 June 2021, then-Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, requested judicial authorisation to proceed with an investigation into crimes committed in the Philippines from 1st November 2011 – the date the Philippines became an ICC member – until 16 March 2019. According to Bensouda, there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the context of the government’s ‘war on drugs’, in which thousands have died. Bensouda further added that available information indicates that members of the Philippine national police and others acting in concert with them have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians during the period under investigation. On 15 September 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC granted the Prosecutor’s request to commence the investigation.

1.7 In June 2019, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the Philippines which mandated monitoring by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. In a damning report on the Philippines presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2020, the High Commissioner reported that violations of human rights, including the widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects, attacks on human rights activists and the vilification of dissent, were pervasive in the country, and accountability virtually non-existent. A follow-up resolution in September 2020 missed the critical opportunity to build on this scrutiny and instead focused purely on technical cooperation and capacity-building. On 24 July 2021, the Philippines government and the UN formalised a human rights programme which includes strengthening domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms; data gathering on alleged police violations; civic space and engagement with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights; a national mechanism for reporting and follow-up; counter-terrorism legislation; and human rights-based approaches to drug control. This has not, to date, resulted in any tangible human rights improvement, nor steps towards accountability.

1.8 As a result of these issues, civic space in the Philippines is currently classified as ‘repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor, indicating the existence of significant civic space restrictions.

  • Section 2 of this submission examines the Philippines’ implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning the freedom of association.
  • Section 3 examines the Philippines’ implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to the protection of HRDs and civil society activists.
  • Section 4 examines the Philippines’ implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards concerning the freedom of expression, media freedom and the rights of journalists.
  • Section 5 examines the Philippines’ implementation of UPR recommendations and compliance with international human rights standards related to the freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • Section 6 contains recommendations to address the concerns raised and advance implementation of recommendations under the 3rd cycle.
  • An annex on the implementation of 3rd cycle UPR recommendations related to civic space is in Section 7.

You can read and download the full report below or through this link.

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CIVICUS Karapatan UPR Submisson - Philippines 4th cycle-MBB review.pdf924.22 KB