Rights defenders at UN: Violations continue amid worsening economic crisis in PH

Filipino rights defenders urged the United Nations (UN) anew to investigate violations in the Philippines at the ongoing 53rd Human Rights Council (HRC) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Representatives of organizations Center for Environmental Concerns, Coalition for People’s Rights to Health, Council for Health and Development, IBON Foundation, Kilusang Mayo Uno and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said abuses and lack of accountability are continuing under the year-old Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency.

The human rights violations are happening amid worsening economic crisis, the groups that are part of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Network said.

The organizations reported it participated in interactive dialogues with UN Special Rapporteurs reporting before the UN HRC on the issues of physical and mental health, protection and promotion of human rights in the context of climate change, and the independence of judges and lawyers.

NUPL chairperson Edre Olalia (left) in a side event at the United Nations Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (Supplied photo)

They added they have talked to other UN experts, working group members and their representatives, including those on enforced disappearances; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; peaceful assembly and of association; independence of judges and lawyers; climate change; right to food; business and human rights; and on leprosy.

“Beyond the optics and rhetoric of the Marcos Jr. administration, we come once again to the UN to hold power to account by presenting our data and recommendations,” NUPL chairperson Edre Olalia said.

Olalia added that their reports can serve as an alternative to State-backed narratives on the rights of the Filipino people.

In March, Philippine government representatives formally accepted select recommendations made by UN HRC member states at the 4th cycle of the UPR of the country’s human rights record held last November.

The Philippine UPR Watch said that there is lack of progress on civil and political rights violations in the country, adding there remains the absence of significant measures to address “deeply-rooted problems.”

The groups said these include problems on wages and job-security, precarious and hazardous work, poverty and inequality, ill health and poor services, and environmental distress and climate change.

“By failing to install robust mechanisms and staunch guardrails to respect, protect and fulfil human rights in the Philippines, those who raise dissent or dare challenge State narratives face harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, surveillance, or death,” the delegation said in a statement.

“The lives of countless workers, lawyers, judges, health workers, environment defenders, and development workers are senselessly taken, and basic democratic rights are continuously attacked with impunity,” Olalia further explained.

The human rights lawyers however said these fuel their resolve to tirelessly make their voices heard by the international community and to ask them to investigate injustices in the Philippines.

The 53rd Regular Session of the UN HRC is ongoing from June 19 to July 14. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)