On the adoption of UN HRC Resolution on technical cooperation and capacity-building for human rights in PH

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines and its partner organizations acknowledge the adoption of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) resolution on technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The resolution, despite its shortcomings, remains as among the indications of the international community’s acknowledgement of and persisting scrutiny on the human rights crisis in the Philippines under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. It is likewise proof that the Duterte administration, despite its posturing and rhetoric, caved in to domestic and international pressure for justice and accountability.

The resolution comes after the damning report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the persistent and widespread killings and human rights violations in the Philippines, the numerous statements of UN Special Procedures expressing concern on the situation, the European Parliament resolution calling on the European Commission to initiate the temporary withdrawal of trade perks of the Philippines in the light of the serious rights violations, and the proposed measure at the US Congress to end military and police aid to the Philippine government.

However, the said UN HRC Resolution stops short in providing more meaningful actions to address and impact on the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines as recommended by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). We believe that programs for technical cooperation and capacity building would NOT decisively curb the worsening human rights situation in the country. Victims and their families, human rights activists and defenders, and communities affected by these violations believe that prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of human rights violations, especially those committed by the highest officials in government, and thoroughgoing and immediate review, amendment, changes and/or repeal of policies instituted in law and practice by the Philippine government are among the crucial indicators in addressing the strong and persistent demands for justice and accountability.

With this government’s track record of brazen disregard for basic human rights and civil liberties, with its officials’ relentless efforts to vilify human rights defenders and active campaign to silence critics amid UN HRC resolution 41/2 and Ms. Bachelet’s report, we have serious reservations that the supposed technical assistance and capacity-building programs will stop the human rights violations. We even fear that the government may abuse such programs and use these as smokescreen to conceal their apathy and disregard toward the victims or to commit reprisals against activists and human rights defenders engaging in the process. 

We reiterate our call for a thorough and comprehensive investigation through independent and transparent accountability mechanisms, removed from the clutches of those who have been perpetrating and emboldening the commission of human rights violations. To leave the investigation in the hands of the same government which has continuously shown disregard of our rights would result in a mockery. Time and time again, human rights defenders have pointed out the failures in investigating and prosecuting human rights violations through domestic mechanisms.

EcuVoice will continue to engage the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies as well as other international accountability platforms by intergovernmental, government and non-governmental organizations to pursue justice for the victims of the State’s abandonment and disrespect of human rights and civil liberties in the Philippines.

Edre U. Olalia, EcuVoice, National Union of Peoples' Lawyers President, +639175113373
Cristina E. Palabay, EcuVoice, Karapatan Secretary General, +639173162831