Karapatan welcomes UN SecGen report on reprisals, hits PH govt’s worn-out denials

Karapatan welcomed the report of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres which was presented to the 42nd UN Human Rights Council by UN Assistant Secretary General Andrew Gilmour on reprisals experienced by human rights defenders and civil society organizations accessing UN human rights mechanisms. The report cites the forms of reprisals against Karapatan, the Philippine Commission on Human Rights and detained Sen. Leila de Lima. 

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, who led a delegation of rights defenders and victims or rights violations from the Philippines in the 42nd HRC sessions, said that Guterres’s report has noted the case of reprisals faced by Karapatan human rights defenders in the course of its work in documenting and monitoring cases of rights violations and in submitting reports to the Human Rights Council, special procedures and treaty bodies. 

“Instead of the usual and worn-out denials of the Philippine government, they should heed the UN Secretary General’s conclusions and recommendations to put a stop to smear campaigns and the use of national security and counter-terrorism strategies by States as acts of reprisals against human rights defenders,” Palabay said. 

She also disputed the response of the Philippine government on Guterres’s report, when it alleged that Karapatan is operating unlawfully because its corporate existence and registration have supposedly been ordered revoked for non-filing of reports and that the organization failed to substantiate its figures concerning human rights violations or present evidence before an independent domestic body created to look into the allegations.

“Unfounded information and allegations, including fake news that Karapatan has been unlawfully operating and has unsubstantiated reports, have been disseminated at the UN and among European Union member states undermining the right of Filipino defenders to seek the attention of the UN HRC and the international community on reports of rights violations in the country,” Palabay said. 

Palabay further stated that recent government records, including a certificate from the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission, show that Karapatan remains registered as a non-governmental and non-profit organization and that it has been compliant to reportorial requirements of the SEC. Its data and documentation on verified human rights violations have all been presented before domestic bodies, including courts and the Commission on Human Rights, and have since never been substantially and logically answered by government officials. “The information and data in our reports came from various communities, verified by the victims themselves and our human rights workers. Unlike the government, we do not manipulate data and accounts of rights violations,” Palabay said. 

“Resorting to misinformation and the thousand and one ways by which government officials deny and cover-up these violations in domestic mechanisms are very reasons why we have brought these cases and documentation to international human rights bodies. You cannot get a rational, sane and logical response of the Duterte government on any and all cases of rights violations in the Philippines because it is covering up its crimes and it is evading accountability,” she added. 

“Its allergic reaction to independent scrutiny and probes is proof enough that it can be so callous and defensive when its crimes are exposed. Look at how it reacts to the UN HRC resolution; its aversion to a simple report-making process of the international body has all the indications of guilt,” Palabay stated. 

Karapatan also cited the suspension of negotiations, loans & grants from at least 41 governments that supported the UN Human Rights Council resolution as among the ways by which the Duterte government evade accountability. 

“We call on the UN Secretary General and Human Rights Council to continue to call out States, including the Philippines, to refrain from intimidating and promoting acts of reprisals on human rights defenders who access UN human rights mechanisms. We challenge the Philippine government, to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in accordance to the resolution adopted during the 41st session and pave the way for an independent report on the human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay concluded.