By Reynard Magtoto
Karapatan calls on UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC)for a halt to all forms of attacks on human rights defenders, the enactment of a law for their protection, and the acceptance of a full, independent visit to the Philippines by UN Special Rapporteurs, including on the situation of HRDs.
At the 36th UN HRC session in Geneva, Switzerland, Karapatan, speaking on behalf of international human rights organizations Civicus and International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), stated that Filipino human rights defenders continue to have serious concerns about the environment for HRDs in the country.
Since the previous session on the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines last May 2017, the Philippine government received 257 recommendations, of which 103 are supported and 154 noted by the Duterte administration.
Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor who delivered the said statement at the UN HRC, said that in the first year of the Duterte regime, at least fifty human rights defenders, many who were leaders of peasant and indigenous communities, have been killed under the cover of counter-insurgency programs.
“On average, our partners documented 40 killings per year from 2001 to 2016. In the past year, however, this number has risen to 50 HRDs, many who were leaders of peasant and indigenous communities. This is largely due to President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’, which has also resulted in thousands more casualties of regular Filipino citizens,” said Clamor who is also a member of the Philippine UPR Watch.
Since the May review, human rights activists have seen no reprieve in the harassment and threats by State security forces according to Clamor. This includes the Secretary General of people’s organisation Karapatan, Cristina Palabay.
“Duterte’s pronouncements endanger the lives of HRDs who speak out against his repressive policies, including the drug war and martial law declarations, as well as for respect of rights, such as to a safe and healthy environment. The filing of trumped-up charges to criminalize HRDs has been normalized by the government, hampering us from doing our work and violating our freedom of association,” Clamor added.
Karapatan also raised concerns on the ominous signs of a nationwide martial law under President Rodrigo Duterte. Clamor said these signs hover like a sword of Damocles over HRDs and the Filipino people.
“Our history shows that such a decision will worsen the current state of human rights in the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay criticized the Duterte regime’s continuing denial of the occurrence of extrajudicial killings and other rights violations in the Philippines before the international human rights body, referring to the recent statement of Ambassador Evan Garcia before the said UN HRC session. (BaretangBikolnon.com/Featured image from NCCP)