Karapatan renews call for UN independent investigation on the Philippines as killings, violations continue

As the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) commences today, human rights alliance Karapatan renewed its call on member and observer States to work towards an independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines, especially in the light of the International Criminal Court Office of the Prosecutor’s (ICC-OTP) request to open an investigation on the Philippines’ drug war and the recently reported killings.

“The findings of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that the drug war killings appear to have been committed pursuant to office Philippine government policy and that Philippine authorities failed to take meaningful steps to investigate or prosecute perpetrators of these violations should be taken as a strong message by those at the UN HRC to undertake a decisive, thorough and comprehensive investigation into the human rights situation in the country through independent and transparent accountability mechanisms,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

While noting that the October 2020 UN HRC resolution on technical cooperation and capacity building on human rights in the Philippines and the UN Joint Programme as an acknowledgement of human rights crisis under the Duterte administration, Palabay averred that “these efforts stop short in providing more meaningful actions to address and impact on the worsening human rights situation and to obtain accountability for the numerous and persisting rights violations in the country.”

“Domestic accountability mechanisms have failed and are continuing to fail the victims of human rights violations, their families and communities who are bearing the brunt of the administration’s murderous policies. Prosecution of State security forces involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, red-tagging and other violations are either slow-paced or not moving or have faced numerous roadblocks due to lack of diligent investigation and perceived partiality of investigating agencies to the perpetrators. The review panel on the drug war and Task Force on Administrative Order 32 have nothing to show in terms of prosecutions and convictions,” the Karapatan official stated.

Continuing killings

Palabay further noted that, as these domestic mechanisms are rendered ineffective, extrajudicial killings continue.

On Tuesday, June 15, three indigenous peoples — 12-year-old Angel Rivas, Lenny Rivas, and Willy Rodriguez — in Lianga, Surigao del Sur were massacred by soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army, who claimed that the three were armed rebels. Their families and residents in the village however stated that the three were farmers harvesting abaca hemp when they were killed. According to reports by Karapatan – Caraga, soldiers and paramilitary groups in the area are harassing the victims’ families and neighbors, as they conduct the wake for the three.

This incident is the 25th massacre documented by Karapatan under the Duterte administration. 121 individuals have been killed in incidents in Sumilao, Bukidnon; Palayan, Nueva Ecija; Masbate City and Cawayan, Mobo and Mandaon, Masbate; San Nicolas, Pangasinan; Gubat and Bulan, Sorsogon; Lake Sebu and Polomolok, South Cotabato; Siaton, Negros Oriental; Bato and Ragay, Camarines Sur; Matalam, Cotabato; Antique; Patikul, Sulu; Baguio City; Polomok, South Cotabato; Kabacan, North Cotabato; Baras, Rizal; Capiz; and Sta. Rosa City, Laguna.

On Wednesday, June 16, 16-year-old Jhondy Maglinte and his companion Antonio Dalit were killed when elements from the Police Regional Office 4A were serving a warrant of arrest against him on drug charges. The police insisted that they fired or fought back, which was why they were fired upon by the cops. Relatives and witnesses however claimed that Maglinte was not in possession of any gun and that he was already handcuffed and was lying face down when he was shot dead by the police.

“That these cases continue despite the ICC-OTP findings and the ongoing UN Joint Programme indicates that the Philippine government is insincere in genuinely taking steps to stop the killings and in rendering justice. The UN HRC should act decisively by undertaking an independent investigation, as more lives are put at greater risk,” Palabay concluded.