Karapatan: PH gov’t should welcome justice-seeking efforts, including int’l rights probe

“The Philippine government should welcome statements of concern of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, Vice President Leni Robredo as well as that of religious institutions, civil society and people’s organizations who sounded the alarm on and supported calls for justice by kin of victims during the Bloody Sunday incidents and crackdown on Southern Tagalog activists, if it is genuinely interested in pursuing accountability and in addressing impunity in the country. Threats and smears on the basis of these statements issued by concerned individuals and institutions are unwarranted,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

For its part, Karapatan welcomes these statements “as consistent voices that help in driving efforts for independent investigations regarding this recent spate of brutal killings and arrests.”

“Now more than ever, the growing voices of international rights bodies, civil society and the different sectors must stand in defiance against these abhorrent injustices,” she added. 

Palabay continued that “we must demand accountability by asserting the urgency of an independent and impartial investigation into the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines” as she condemned how Philippine National Police “tortured” the families of the victims twice over from the killing of their loved ones to how the families of four of the nine victims in Rizal were “forced to suffer dehumanization, threats, harassment from State forces just to retrieve their loved ones’ remains.”

“The appalling mercilessness of the police and military is utterly evil and beyond compare. How do they even get to sleep at night knowing that they have murdered innocent people? That they have shamelessly made families suffer to be able to get their loved ones’ bodies? Don’t they have families of their own that they were able to inflict this sheer inhumanity against the victims and their families? Wala silang mga puso!,” she lamented.

The Karapatan official also agreed with the statements of the UN OHCHR and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice, and Peace that there is a history of red-tagging of activists, human rights defenders, and government critics — making them targets of extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests on fabricated charges. Palabay appealed to the church and the UN to also help look into “the Duterte government’s massive red-tagging rampage that continues to gravely endanger the lives and safety of many civilians, activists, and ordinary people.”

“An independent investigation of the UN Human Rights Council has become more imperative, and we reiterate its urgency because State forces are continuously mobilizing vast swathes of government machinery and resources to further orchestrate violations of civil and political rights with impunity. With each passing day, more lives, security and liberties are at greater risk. How many more search warrants will be used to justify these killings and arrests? How many more lives will be lost before the madness stops?” Palabay asked. 

The Karapatan official further averred that “existing domestic mechanisms of accountability have failed and continue to fail the victims and their kin because the Duterte administration’s kill-kill-kill policy remains and is being promoted, while those responsible for these atrocities enjoy every inch of impunity, especially with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s red-tagging campaign and Duterte’s terror law in place.”

“We need more voices to speak up. Today is not the time to be silent. The attacks are getting grimmer by the day and this bloodbath must stop now and the government forces must be indicted for their crimes — and the laws, policies, bodies that have facilitated these atrocities should be rescinded and abolished. As Vice President Robredo put it: we deserve better than this murderous regime,” Palabay concluded.