#UDHR75 in the Philippines: A day of reckoning

The Marcos-Duterte regime has failed miserably in its obligation to comply with the international human rights norms and standards under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Today, on the 75th year of the UDHR, the Filipino people assert the right to hold the regime to account and exact justice for its violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL), amid intensifying poverty and exploitation of the poor majority. 

Among the most violated is the right to life. As of November 2023, Karapatan has documented 87 extrajudicial killings in the course of the Marcos Jr. regime’s brutal counter-insurgency war since he began his term in July 2022. The victims range from a nine-year old girl to a mentally ill farmer.

Karapatan also documented 12 victims of enforced disappearance; 316 victims of illegal and arbitrary arrest; 22,391 victims of bombing; 39,769 victims of indiscriminate firing; 24,670 victims of forced evacuation; 552 victims of forced surrender; and 1,609,49 6 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation, including red-tagging. 

Hundreds are facing trumped up charges, including 795 political prisoners who contend with the unjust bases of their imprisonment and sordid conditions in detention facilities. At least seventeen of them are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

Terror laws are used in full swing to suppress dissent and to derail development and humanitarian work. The wrongful designation of peace consultants and negotiators, as well as community and indigenous people’s leaders, and the baseless charges against human rights defenders have exposed the weaponization of these laws to violate the people’s constitutional rights.  

Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte, as high officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), pursue the notorious body’s militarist whole-of-nation approach which did not address the roots of the armed conflict in the country and has instead engendered the thousands of cases of human rights and IHL violations. Confidential and intelligence funds, on top of the NTF-ELCAC’s budget and the heftier share of the military and police in the national budget, expose the skewed priorities of this administration, instead of increasing public funds for social services. 

The UP Third World Studies Program’s Dahas Project, on the other hand, has reported that under Marcos Jr.’s war on drugs, there have been 474 drug-war related killings as of November 23, 2023, belying the regime’s claims that its version of the drug war is “bloodless.”

Despite Marcos Jr.’s cultivated facade, the sordid figures on rights violations prove that he is his dictator-father’s son and his regime, a continuation of that of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte himself is accountable for up to 30,000 deaths in his bloody war on drugs and the killings of 422 activists, on top of other grave violations of human rights. 

The two regimes are bound by the same anti-people policies of intolerance for dissent and the use of militarist frameworks to suppress people’s resistance to oppression. Such policies and acts are driven by the US government’s imperialist machinations through its military aid, war materiel, and interventionist schemes, similar to its war of aggression against the people of Palestine. 

As we hold them to account for these crimes, we support calls by victims of the drug war and their families for the International Criminal Court to pursue investigations on Duterte and his cabal, in the face of the utter failure of domestic redress mechanisms to render justice to the victims. We strive in exacting accountability in various venues and fora. 

While we fight for justice, we renew our commitment to the struggle for a just and lasting peace by insisting that previous agreements on human rights and IHL be upheld and that the root causes of the armed conflict be addressed. The GRP-NDFP peacetalks presents this opportunity for the majority of disadvantaged Filipinos. 

On this day, we uphold the people’s right to resist in the face of repression, tyranny and wars of aggression. We stand resolutely with the Filipino people and all oppressed peoples in upholding human and people’s rights and our democratic aspirations.