Canadian foreign minister urged to voice rights violations concerns in PH visit

A group asked the Canadian foreign affairs minister to stop her government’s support to the Philippines’ counter-terrorism campaign they say often leads to human rights violations.

In a May 18 letter, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)-Canada asked Minister Melanie Joly to bring up human rights concerns in her ongoing visit to the country.

“It is important for Canada to stop offering financial, programmatic, and technical assistance to the Philippine Government as it may lead to the oppression of its own citizens through counter-terrorism measures,” ICHRP Canada said in its letter.

Joly is in the Philippines from May 18 to 20 to strengthen bilateral relations between the Canadian and Philippine governments.

The Canadian foreign minister is set to meet with Philippine foreign affairs secretary Enrique Manalo and other Cabinet members on matters including regional security and stability, maintenance of a rules-based international order, Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy and partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ICHRP however urged Joly to ask the Philippine government to stop the red-tagging of Filipino human rights defenders the Philippine military and several government officials accuse of being “enemies of the state.”  

Red-tagging and similar campaigns are “questionable counter-terrorism efforts,” the group said.

“In less than a year since President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. assumed office, eight human rights defenders and community organizers have involuntarily disappeared. By continuing to support the Philippine Government, Canada risks being complicit in serious and widespread human rights violations. Therefore, this issue needs to be addressed promptly,” ICHRP explained.

ICHRP also called on Minister Joly to call on the Philippine government to:

  • Repeal the Anti-Terror Law and recall Executive Order No. 70, creating a National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), stop all activities emanating from this order, including the escalation of smear campaigns and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and specifically, call on Philippine authorities to surface the eight human rights defenders, who have involuntarily disappeared in the past 11 months, alive and safe;
  • End impunity and prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, and
  • Adhere to and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights instruments to which the Philippines is a party and signatory.

ICHRP said its partners have reported that the counter-terrorism policies and programs of the Philippine Government do not meet the international standards for counter-terrorism and human rights obligations.

“Canada’s response to this issue serves as a test of its dedication to protecting human rights and those who defend them,” the group said.

“This is a critical issue that demands prompt attention,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)