Rights group lauds 31 UN experts’ statement on PH, decries continuing killings of rights defenders

Rights group Karapatan today welcomed the statement of thirty-one (31) Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) released on Friday, June 26, 2020, calling on the UN HRC to “establish an on-the-ground international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines” and “to initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.”

“This statement on the Philippines of an unprecedented number of UN Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups who are calling for independent investigation and accountability sends a strong message to the Philippine government – that it cannot circumvent its obligations by dismissing findings of independent bodies as ‘faulty’ or ‘biased’ when it suits its interest of evading accountability,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

The statement of UN experts was released days before the 44th UN HRC session, on June 30, 2020 when UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is expected to deliver her report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Karapatan particularly noted the findings of the High Commissioner on the implementation of Memorandum Order 32 which has increased militarization and with far-reaching impact on the rights of the farmers and indigenous peoples, in particular. Bachelet, in her report, recommended the rescinding of Memorandum Order 32.

“Despite the findings and recommendations of the High Commissioner and numerous calls for justice at the domestic and international levels, killings of human rights defenders in areas covered by Memorandum Order 32 such as in Negros and Bicol continue,” Palabay said.

At 6 a.m., on June 23, 2020, Jose Jerry Catalogo, 49, an officer of a local farmers’ association affiliated with the National Federation of Sugar Workers, was killed by at least three unnamed assailants while in a hacienda in Sitio Lunay, Brgy. Paitan, Escalante, Negros Occidental for a sugarcane harvesting job near their house. Catalogo’s body sustained two gunshot wounds on his head and back, while his legs and hands were severely broken, when he was found by his wife. Jerry is the father of Cheryl Catalogo, one of the youth activists wrongfully charged and illegally arrested during the raids on NGO offices last October 31, 2019 in Bacolod City.

On June 24, 2020, two farmers from the Organisasyon ng mga Magsasaka sa Albay and local barangay officials, Elder Moina and Jose Arthur Clemente, were killed in Brgy. San Isidro, Jovellar, Albay. Clemente received threats from suspected state agents prior to his killing.

“We express our condolences to the families of peasant leaders Catalogo, Moina and Clemente. It is high time that the UN Human Rights Council takes a decisive and immediate action to investigate the human rights violations in the Philippines. We are not only facing the pandemic of COVID-19 and the inadequate government policies in relation to this disease; we are also facing a pandemic of rights violations including the killing of peasants and human rights defenders,” Palabay ended.

 

Copy of the statement of UN experts are available through this link: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25999&LangID=E