On UN High Commissioner Bachelet’s update on PH at HRC 48

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the UN Human Rights Council 48th session on the implementation of the resolution on technical cooperation and capacity building noted the continuing and severe human rights violations in the Philippines, amidst and despite the ongoing UN Joint Programme in the country.

We note and appreciate her views on the lack of accountability for the killings and rights violations in the counterinsurgency program; continuing harassment, threats and killings of human rights defenders, churchworkers, environmental and land rights defenders, journalists, lawyers; killings of 9 indigenous Tumandok leaders and 9 killed during the Bloody Sunday operations; and the red-tagging against activists, media and other actors.

We note though that government action on the drug war through the review panel is too little, too late. Thousands of lives have been claimed and their kin have been crying out for justice for the last five years. The recent court acquittal of 19 police personnel in killing of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa adds to the numerous other cases filed in courts by victims and their families, wherein there is almost nil delivery of justice. The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber’s opening of an investigation in the Philippines is a significant indication on the inadequacy, if not non-existent, domestic mechanisms in the country.

There is no let-up in the Duterte administration’s brazen red-tagging and attacks against activists which continue to endanger lives and freedoms in the country. The terror law remains a Damocles sword hanging over the heads of human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, journalists and opposition members, as the 2022 national elections near.

There is nothing new in the Philippine government representative’s statement as it remains characterized by victim-blaming and glossing over of various issues in relation to domestic accountability measures.

These are compelling reasons why the current HRC resolution, even the UN Joint Programme, does not address the worsening human rights situation in the country. These emphasize more than ever the importance of an international independent investigation.

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General