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16/05

Rights defenders give failing mark to Philippine government report at UN rights review

"Despite attempts by the Philippine delegation to justify the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and to present a positive picture of its achievements on the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people, most of the attending states still raised serious concerns on a host of human rights issues that remain unaddressed.”

Filipino human rights defenders represented by the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch in the United Nations’ review of the Philippine's human rights record gave a failing mark to the Philippine government’s presentation of the human rights situation in the country.

The UPR is a process where all UN members are subjected to a review every four years of their compliance with international human rights instruments and their commitments and pledges.

This is the third cycle of the UPR on the Philippines which covers the period from May 2012 to September 2016 spanning the administrations of former president Aquino and current president Duterte.

In a statement, TWHA partner Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) and a member of the UPR Watch, quoted Atty. Ephraim Cortez, co-head of the Philippine UPR Watch delegation to the Geneva event:

"Despite attempts by the Philippine delegation to justify the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and to present a positive picture of its achievements on the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people, most of the attending states still raised serious concerns on a host of human rights issues that remain unaddressed.”

Report does not reflect realities on the ground

UPR Watch assailed the government report saying that “it glosses over the numerous extra-judicial killings happening in various parts of the country. Both the Duterte government’s anti-illegal drug campaign and counter-insurgency programs Oplan Bayanihan under the Aquino regime and Oplan Kapayapaan under President Duterte that target activists, human rights defenders and community leaders opposing land grabbing and anti-poor government policies have resulted in the killings, disappearances, torture, illegal arrests, among other forms of human rights abuses of thousands of individuals."

For the period under review, KARAPATAN's data shows that there are 249 victims of extra-judicial killings, 244 victims of torture, 17 victims of enforced disappearances and 103,337 victims of forced evacuations due to military operations. The majority of the victims are peasants, indigenous peoples opposing land grabbing and destructive operations of big mining corporations, workers fighting for their right to free association and collective bargaining, children and minors, activists and human rights defenders.

“Alternative facts”

During his presentation, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who led the Philippine government delegation, said there was no sudden wave of state-sponsored extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. He dismissed reports on the thousands of killings in the course of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs as “alternative facts” being spread by the media, Duterte’s critics and the government’s own Commission on Human Rights.

Notwithstanding Cayetano’s defense of the Duterte administration’s human rights record, the delegates of other UN member-states expressed their concerns and opposition on the extrajudicial killings happening under the current government and called for a thorough investigation.

“Delegates from 95 states made statements and recommendations on a host of human rights issues. Among these were government representatives from Canada and other European states who spoke against extra-judicial killings in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, as well as in politically motivated cases. The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Slovakia called for the implementation of a policy against the use of torture and safeguards against enforced disappearances, and arrests of perpetrators of rights abuses. States such as Estonia, Latvia, and Hungary called for investigations of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders,” Karapatan said. 

No serious government effort to address human rights problems

“Philippine UPR Watch welcomes these recommendations coming from the members States. However, it is gravely concerned that these recommendations still came up during the third cycle, despite having been noted in the previous two cycles of the UPR in 2008 and 2012. This is evidence not only of the lack of serious effort on the part of the Philippine Government to address these observations but also of the ineffectiveness of its Philippine Human Rights Plan which did not at all help in curbing these violations,” said Cortez.

He also said that UPR Watch plans to submit its report and recommendations on the human rights situation in the country to both panels in the on-going peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Philippines as part of a process of taking the government to task to fulfill its obligation to heed the voice of human rights advocates from the country and abroad.

Another TWHA partner, Gabriela is also a member of UPR Watch as well as consortium partner Kiyo’s Children’s Rehabilitation Center and Salinlahi. They were part of the UPR Watch delegation that participated in the said process.

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