January 21, 2024
“Stop the fakery and cut the show,” thus said rights group KARAPATAN after the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion in the country shows the Philippine government’s “open, sustained and sincere cooperation…with bilateral and regional partners and the UN.”
“Integrity in cooperation with international human rights mechanisms means heeding recommendations of these international experts and bodies, consistent with a State’s obligations under human rights treaties, conventions and declarations. The Philippine government has disregarded, shrugged off, and rejected past recommendations done by UN special rapporteurs who have visited the country. They are faking these all, as the Marcos Jr. government has stepped up its policy of wanton repression against the people, violating rights and basic freedoms including our freedom of expression,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Palabay said that the Marcos Jr. government treats international engagements as “all niceties” and “opportunities merely to boost his tainted image before the international community.” “Meanwhile, real figures and real issues on human rights haunt his administration, and the outright disregard of such issues reflects his callousness,” said Palabay.
Karapatan has stated that extrajudicial killings in the drug war and the counterinsurgency program continue, and that the use of the Anti-Terrorism Law in suppressing dissent is now in full swing. The group also said that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has strengthened its terror-tagging spree in neighborhoods, communities and various parts of the country, through military operations. Nearly 800 political prisoners are facing trumped up criminal charges, spending years in jail because of the State’s intolerance of political beliefs and dissent.
Palabay enumerated the key recommendations of UN Special Rapporteurs who have visited the Philippines in previous years, where there is zero action from the Philippine government. “Worse, the government’s policy, the very issues that were investigated upon and addressed by the UN rapporteurs, are continued,” said Palabay.
The report of Prof. Philip Alston to the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 after his visit to the Philippines in 2007 when he was the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, pointed out the responsibility of the government, military and police in the targeted killings and enforced disappearances of political activists and those tagged as rebel supporters as part of the counter-insurgency campaign of the State, stating that counter-insurgency operations “result in the extrajudicial killings of leftist activists,” and in some areas, “they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification.”
Alston had a checklist of recommended concrete steps that the Philippine government should do to address and abate these violations, including the recommendation that the Philippine government should desist from such forms of vilification as it has resulted in grave violations. Karapatan has said that most, if not all, of Alston’s views and recommendations remain unheeded by succeeding administrations, until the present Marcos administration.
Dr. Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human rights in the Context of Climate Change, after visiting the Philippines and speaking to environmental defenders and communities under attack in November 2023, called for the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the rescinding of the Anti-Terrorism Law, noting how these have been weaponized against environmental activists in the Philippines.
Palabay also said that numerous recommendations during the Philippines’ Universal Periodic Review and at the UN Human Rights Committee on the human rights situation in the Philippines have also been put forward and yet, the Marcos Jr. administration persists with its denialism on the violations committed in the country.
“The Philippine government should stop making these events, like Ms. Irene Khan’s visit to the country, as window dressing before the international community. We are raising concerns about serious issues where life and death matter for Filipinos. Instead of using Khan’s visit in its PR blitz to deodorize the Philippine government’s record on free expression, the government should heed and implement previous and upcoming recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and international human rights mechanisms,” she said.
Karapatan is among the 39 national, regional, and international organizations which have submitted reports to Ms. Khan to show the “bleak and sorry state of press freedom and the right to express in the Philippines,” and recommended steps towards halting the attacks against journalists, activists, and people.
The group, along with media organizations, artists, members of the academe, and press freedom and freedom of expression advocates, have launched the #FightToExpress in time for Khan’s visit, to call for an investigation on the dangerous patters on violations on the people’s freedom of expression and opinion in the country. #