Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.
Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”
The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.
The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”
“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.
The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.
Philippine Human Rights Bill
Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.
The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”
The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.
If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:
- Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;
- Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
- Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
- Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
- Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.
Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.
“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.
“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.
Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and others.
PH government response
In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.
“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.
“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.
Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”
“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.
Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.
“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)