Philippines unworthy of UN Security Council seat, rights groups say

Human rights groups said the Philippines is not worthy to become a member of the United Nations  (UN) Security Council because of “grave human rights violations” in the country.

The Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch from Geneva, Switzerland said the Philippine government is insincere in cooperating with the UN itself on human rights and its bid to join the Security Council must be stopped.

The UPR Watch said that at the ongoing 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights themselves reported on reprisal cases against human rights defenders in the Philippines , saying “there must be an end to other politically motivated charges, and a safer environment for civil society.”

The report before the Human Rights Council took special note of the perjury case against Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, and a member of Philippine UPR Watch, and the red-tagging of Karapatan and its staff.

“How can the Philippines take on the task of international peace and safety when it is much of an epic fail on the domestic front? Killings, disappearances, trumped-up charges happen day in, day out. Aggression on our seas conducted by foreign vessels is a regular occurrence,” National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) officer Kristina Conti said.

“The report on reprisals clearly indicates that the Philippine government is merely posturing before international bodies. The red-tagging, cases, and adversarial stance against human rights defenders and especially civil society organizations that engage with the UN are intended to stifle dissent and, ultimately, kill the civic space,” she added.

Conti further said that the Philippine government’s refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a direct challenge to international authority.

“Their campaign stands on quicksand. Members of the UN General Assembly will be able to access information from the different offices and agencies of the UN. They will hear about the inaction of the Philippine government on cases lodged in domestic and international fora,” Katribu’s Beverly Longid said.

Longid added that UN Special Rapporteurs are also formally monitoring the cases against indigenous peoples’ rights activist Windel Bolinget, who has engaged with the UN since the 1990s and was designated a terrorist by the Philippine government.

The Philippines reiterated its bid to be one of 10 temporary members of the UN Security Council in 2027-2028 at the session in New York.

The Philippine UPR delegation meanwhile is at the UN headquarters in Geneva lobbying at the session of the Human Rights Council, meeting with country missions, UN offices, and spoken at several sessions and side events reporting on the Philippines’ inability to rein in abuses of state forces.

“The so-called ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘war on terror’ have been bloody, intense, and continuous. We have a long list of police abuses, military brutality, and government misuse of power. The Philippines simply lacks credibility to join the UN Security Council because it is in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Conti said.

The Philippine UPR Watch said UN experts are currently raising with the Philippine government the safety of lawyers, in particular that of five NUPL members who have been killed, attacked, and red-tagged.

In a joint communication dated 15 June 2023, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Margaret Satterthwaite and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin asked the Philippine government to provide information about the investigation into attacks and explain how the government can ensure safety of lawyers and judges.

They are looking specifically into the killing of Juan Macababbad and the attempted killing of Angelo Karlo Guillen, and the surveillance, threats and “red-tagging” of Catherine Salucon, Edre Olalia, and Maria Sol Taule. # (Raymund B.Villanueva)