Karapatan supports Philippine Human Rights Act in the US Congress, drug war victims’ efforts to pursue justice at ICC

A day before President Rodrigo Duterte marks his fifth year in office, rights group Karapatan expressed support for the reintroduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act in the US Congress, as well as the participation of drug war victims and their kin in the process of the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor and the Victims Participation and Reparations Section for them to submit their views, concerns and expectations on the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation on the alleged rights violations in the drug war. The group also called for more support and solidarity “as we collectively carry on our call for justice and accountability in the last year of this murderous regime.”

“We express our support to the Philippine Human Rights Act, and welcome this move at the same time that the Duterte regime faces investigation by the International Criminal Court on the ‘war on drugs.’ We call on all victims of the drug war, their families and communities to participate in this important process by making their plight known and in supporting the request of the Office of the Prosecutor for an investigation. These efforts by the international community, victims and kin, and numerous groups and communities should serve as a warning to Duterte and his apologists that justice or accountability shall come, in one way or another, for all their crimes against the people,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

On June 14, Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District Representative Susan Wild reintroduced House Resolution 3884, or “An Act to suspend the provision of security assistance to the Philippines until the Government of the Philippines has made certain reforms to the military and police forces, and for other purposes.” The bill is initially co-sponsored by 11 members of the U.S. Congress. The earlier House Resolution, HR 3884 which was filed last year, cited data from Karapatan which stated that, “As of April 2020, the Alliance for Advancement of People’s Rights (“Karapatan”) has documented 308 extrajudicial political killings, 439 victims of attempted politically motivated killings, 214 victims of torture, around 2,500 victims of illegal arrests, over 100,000 victims of threats and harassments, and nearly half a million internal refugees under the Duterte administration.”

Palabay said that the US government’s military and police aid to the Philippines for the past five years have been used to beef up funds to weaponize the country’s state forces to implement its counter-insurgency campaign and the war against drugs. The International Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines said that since 2016, the U.S. has provided $550 million dollars in military aid to Duterte and implemented paltry human rights restrictions and oversight.

“The law, if passed, shall be in effect beyond Duterte’s term and may be utilized to look into the Philippine government’s adherence to its human rights obligations. The decrease or eventual loss of military and police aid from the US is a strong message of the American people that they will not tolerate the use of their taxes to perpetuate rights violations in the Philippines,” Palabay said.

On its website, the ICC’s VPRS called on victims of alleged crimes committed between November 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019, in the context of the war on drugs campaign in the Philippines to submit their “views, concerns and concerns on the Prosecutor’s request to open an investigation.” These inputs will be for the consideration of the ICC Judges at the Pre-Trial Chamber.

“With the climate of fear and impunity gripping families and communities nationwide and with the statements from the Duterte administration on the findings of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, there should be no reprisals, threats or intimidation against victims who will participate in the process,” she stated.

The group also chided the Duterte regime at invoking sovereignty with international efforts to raise the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“Duterte invokes fake sovereignty in his reactions and pronouncements on the ICC, as well as on the Philippine Human Rights Act, and even with other international bodies expressing concern on the human rights situation in the Philippines. There is international support for justice and accountability on the human rights situation in the Philippines because of the continuous clamor of victims, sectors and rights advocates, and the rest of the Filipino people. We shall continue to work in all possible venues to seek justice, make this regime accountable for its crimes, and put a stop to the killings or else, this will go on and on as long as Duterte remains in power and beyond,” said Palabay.

Karapatan said they will definitely welcome the last year of Duterte with protests and louder calls for justice.

“We hope that more efforts will follow suit, as we raise our voices and protest. We will not endure the last year of Duterte regime in silence. Let this be a testament that anywhere here and in the world, we will fight back,” Palabay ended.