KARAPATAN at the 56th UNHRC session: Human rights situation in PH remains as bleak as ever

In a side event at the 56th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland on June 20, 2024, KARAPATAN’s Atty. Maria Sol Taule said that under the Marcos Jr. administration, “the human rights situation remains as bleak as ever, with intensifying human rights and international humanitarian law violations and worsening climate of impunity, while justice for victims of human rights violations committed in the name of the “war against drugs” and “counter-terrorism” remains elusive.”

Taule will co-lead a delegation of human rights defenders from the Philippines to participate in the UNHRC session, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights is set to deliver a report on the expert’s official visit in the country last November 2023 and as the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights ends this August.

In the side event, KARAPATAN noted “an alarming escalation of the weaponization of the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) and the Terrorist Financing Prevention and Suppression Act (TFPSA)” citing trumped up charges against at least 112 activists and human rights defenders are facing charges under these laws.

“The Anti Terrorism Council unjustly and arbitrarily designated Dr. Naty Castro, Windel Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Sarah Alikes, Jennifer Awingan and peace consultants as terrorists, using perjured testimonies of so called rebel returnees. The bank accounts of humanitarian and development NGOs such as the Leyte Center for Development Inc (LCDE), the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Paghida-et sa Kauswagan Development Group Inc. (PDG) and Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC) have been frozen for alleged terrorist financing,” Taule said in the side event.

“Extrajudicial killings of peasants, indigenous peoples, workers, environmental defenders, among others, are committed by State security forces in the guise of military encounters with armed rebels. The patterns of enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, red-tagging, threats, harassment and intimidation remain to appear as State-sanctioned as State actors commit them with impunity. Indiscriminate bombing and firing continue especially in the countryside away from the attention of mass media and civil society organizations. Hundreds of political prisoners remain because the campaign of political repression includes not just violent attacks but also arresting activists on trumped-up criminal charges,” according to KARAPATAN.

Taule added that in this context, “while the UNJP has kept the HRC’s spotlight on the Philippines, its impact on the ground has been hardly felt. It had weak and low baseline indicators; weaker policy reform work; no visible substantial results in investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human rights violations perpetrators; and limited meaningful participation of civil society.”

In a joint written statement submitted to the HRC by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Franciscans International, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), KARAPATAN, Aktionsbündnis Menschenrechte Philippinen (AMP), In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend) and Caritas Philippines, they called on the Philippine government “to put an end to the practice of red-tagging activists and support the recommendation made by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

They likewise called on the Marcos Jr. administration to fully cooperate with the investigation by the International Criminal Court into alleged crimes against humanity in the context of the “war on drugs” led by Rodrigo Duterte.

On June 27, Taule will be among the resource persons in a side event on civic space in Asia, organized by FORUM-ASIA, Civicus, Franciscans International and the OMCT.

*Attached is the copy of the joint written statement.