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Groups accuse Duterte of lying before UN on human rights

President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech before the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last Tuesday night, September 22, drew jeers from rights groups, calling his remarks on human rights “malicious” and “perverse.”

They said that the President’s repeated threats against UN investigators and local human rights workers show he lied when he professed open dialogue and constructive engagement before the international community.

While hailing the “properly moderate and constructive” tone the President adopted in his 20-minute pre-recorded video message, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said Duterte used his usual “poisonous language” on the issue of human rights that has led to countless extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the last four years.

Duterte accused human rights advocates of “weaponizing” human rights in their alleged propaganda against his government.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly-elected government which in its last two years still enjoys the same widespread approval and support,” Duterte said.

The President, who also talked about the coronavirus pandemic and the South China Sea struggle with China, assured the UN that human rights are protected in the country.

Duterte was obviously reacting to UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report that no less than 8,663 were summarily killed under Duterte’s drug war.

“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism,” Duterte said. 

‘Perverse redefinition of human rights’

Human rights organizations said Duterte tried to redefine human rights and is simply trying to evade accountability.

“It is perverse for the President to redefine human rights as protection from illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism, when human rights begin with the right to life, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Council chairperson, said.

“But the President has repeatedly and recklessly called for lives to be ended, women to be raped, telling his soldiers and police that he will take the blame,” Murphy added.

ICHRP said Duterte’s UNGA speech is a calculated intervention in the deliberations of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council’s 45th Session at the UN’s Geneva, Switzerland headquarters where Bachelet’s report is being considered.

Local human rights alliance Karapatan said Duterte’s remark is a glaring effort “to vilify human rights defenders in the Philippines and to undermine their calls for accountability.”

“Duterte is posturing in making desperate pleas before the international community that is growing increasingly critical of his human rights record and tyrannical rule,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers’s Edre Olalia said that facts and record show it is Duterte’s government that has weaponized the law against human rights advocates, defenders, activists, dissenters, media, the opposition and many others.

“There is a gaping disconnect between the truth and the rhetoric that [the Duterte government] will ‘continue to protect the human rights of its people especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism,’” Olalia said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for its part said that while impunity in the Philippines did not start from the Duterte administration alone, his government has a definite role in ending it.

“[O]r, at the very least, not making it worse with present attitudes and behaviors. It is contrary to democracy to depict dissent and protests as efforts to destabilize,” the CHR said.

Lying to the international community

The CHR said that the best way in improving the human rights situation in the country is by encouraging constructive engagement, including open and unhindered access by independent human rights mechanisms and UN special.

The national human rights institution said the government’s law enforcement agencies must cooperate with investigations to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable and punished.

But Duterte’s refusal to allow UN experts into the country shows he lied to the international community, Karapatan said.

“If his administration was truly for an open dialogue and constructive engagement with the UN and independent bodies, then he would’ve allowed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs to freely conduct an in-country investigation on the sham drug war and other human rights violations,” Palabay said.

Instead, Palabay added, the UN experts’ requests had been met with “threats of violence, wild accusations of foreign meddling, and demeaning insults.”

“The Philippine government even rejected most of the findings and recommendations of the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and is currently finding ways to evade independent investigation at the UN Human Rights Council,” Palabay added.

Olalia echoed Palabay’s denunciation, adding that the government declarations it is open to dialogue and constructive engagement with the UN on human rights issues is “a pretense.”

“It is either hypocritical or cynical given its actual attitude and record with respect to the UN Human Rights Council, the ICC and other international venues. Its engagement is nothing short of tokenism, spins, slants and diversions,” Olalia said.

ICHRP urged member States of the UN Human Rights Council to authorize Bachelet’s office to hold a more wide-ranging investigation on the Philippine situation.

“The Duterte government, if it stands by the President’s commitment to the UN principles and to multilateralism, should fully cooperate with such an initiative,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups laud global calls for probes and sanctions on Duterte’s rights violations

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

US Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA). Supplied photo.

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)

KARAPATAN unfurls giant “Stop the Killings” banner as 45th UNHRC opens

Human rights group Karapatan unfurled a giant “Stop the Killings” banner at the Commission on Human Rights’ Liwasang Diokno in Quezon City as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) opens its 45th session today, September 14, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The group reiterates its call for an end to the Duterte government’s extrajudicial killings and for the UNHRC to investigate rampant human rights violations in the Philippines.

Hustisya, panawagan sa sunud-sunod na pamamaslang sa mga aktibista

Ginanap sa Metro Manila ang isang ‘Global Day of Action for Justice’ sa Bantayog ng mga Bayani sa Quezon City noong Agosto 19 na ang panawagan ay hustisya sa mga biktima ng pagpaslang laluna sa mga aktibista.

Binatikos ng mga progresibong grupo ang gobyerno na siyang tumatarget sa mga aktibista. Pinakahuli na dito ang pagpatay sa human rights worker na si Zara Alvarez ng Karapatan-Negros noong Agosto 17.

Noong nakaraang linggo ay pinatay naman ang Anakpawis National Chairperson at National Democratic Front consultant na si Randall ‘Ka Randy’ Echanis.

MOTHER OF ONE

“But sadly, the more good you do for your fellow Filipinos in this country, the sooner you get to your grave.” Mae Paner

by Pablo Tariman

She could have been my daughter

Or a neighbor’s sister.

Who would think of even

Killing her Monday night

On her way to a boarding house?

She is a church worker

And mother of an 11-year old girl.

How do you break the sad news

Of her mother’s death

And the bullets that riddled

Her young body?

She could have been a good teacher

In any rural school.

But she chose to live

With farm hands

Living an exploited life.

To her

There is more nobility

With just being

The voice of courage

In a hungry, poverty-driven milieu

But life has better things

To teach her.

She found strength

Just living with the poor

And finding ways to empower them.

She knew she had it coming

When she lived a life

Inside detention cell

For two hapless years of her life.

It was then that

She learned to fear no one

While coping with death threats

In the remaining days

Of her life.

She probably drew fortitude

From the death

Of constituents

Whose lives also ended

Biting cold bullets

In their last working day

On earth.

She didn’t fear

The state’s death squad

Inspired by a leader

Caught showing a dirty finger

On national television

On the day her life ended

With a rain of bullets.

I cannot imagine

How her daughter’s life

Would proceed without her.

Gone are the motherly nights

When she’d find courage

Just reading stories

To her dear little one

Still hopeful

For a better day.

She has remained

A profile of courage

Even as she has lost count

Of more dead friends

Waging a good fight

In the countryside.

I like her brand of courage

And the nobility of her mission

Which you cannot say

Of that mad man

Running this country.

Not even the deadly virus

And threats of bullets

Could stop her

From finding strength and solidarity

With her exploited people.

She will find tears useless

On the day her coffin

Is lowered to her modest grave.

To be sure

She can use roses

Falling on her coffin.

The gentle thud of soil

Falling on her grave

Is enough to remind one and all:

She lived a brave struggle

Even during the dark days

Of the deadly virus

And of a brand of leadership

That has gone down

In such state of disrepute.

Yes

Her bravery was one of a kind.

And her name was Zara Alvarez.

* * *

Singil

(Alay kay Zara Alvarez)

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

Basa pa sa dugo

ni Ka Randall

ang iyong

mga kamay

labi niyay kamakailan lang hinimlay.

ngunit hayan!

Si Ka Zara naman

ang iyong pinaslang!

Oo nga’t muling magluluksa’t

hihibik ang Inang Bayan

at sa luhang

kanyang ipapatak

sa bawat buhay

na marahas mong

ibinaon sa hukay

ng pagkaganid mo’t

pagkagahaman

sa kapangyarihan

buntis na magluluwal

ang kanilang mga burol

sa daang libong mga kawal…

hustisya ay buong giting kakamitin!

At mula sa trono ng diktadurya mong

nanlilimahid sa dahas ng pagkapasista

paghahari mo ay mabubuwal!

Laya ng Bayan ay lubos nang itatanghal!

‘Mas nakakatakot na mananatili pa ang ‘veerus’ sa Malacañang’

“Tapos na panahon ng pagkakatakot. Mas nakakatakot ang mamatay na kumakalam ang sikmura ng ating mga pamilya. Mas nakakatakot ang posibilidad na mananatili pa ang ‘veerus’ sa Malacañang. Mas nakakatakot na ang ating mga pamilya at anak ay magmamana ng ganitong klase ng pamumuno.” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Alliance Philippines

Rights activist frustrates new PNP modus in serving arrest warrants

A Philippine National Police (PNP) operative dressed and presented himself to be a delivery boy in a failed attempt to arrest Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay Wednesday, June 7.

Police Master Sergeant (SPOI) Joelon de Tomas Rafael was dressed as an LBC courier when he arrived at Karapatan’s office in Quezon City and introduced himself as an employee of the delivery company.

“I was served a warrant of arrest this afternoon by a guy who introduced himself as an LBC courier. He was wearing the uniform/t-shirt and had an ID. Is this the usual procedure now?” Palabay wrote in a Facebook post.

Palabay said she was surprised when Rafael introduced himself as an LBC courier when he served the arrest warrant. 

She added that another person in civilian clothes accompanying Rafael introduced himself as a police officer from the Quezon City Police District’s headquarters in nearby Camp Karingal. 

Palabay told Kodao that the undercover officer was Police Chief Master Sergeant (SPO3) Luisito Johnson Ubias

“I asked for their IDs. The guy in plainclothes easily gave his and said, after I badgered the ‘LBC guy’ for his ID, that the LBC guy is also a cop,” Palabay revealed.

The prominent human rights activist said she reminded the two police officers that the manner they were serving the arrest warrant violated the PNP’s manual on such operations.

“[W]hen you’re serving warrants of arrests, you should introduce yourself as policemen/arresting officers. You should be in uniform. In fact, you should have read to me my Miranda rights,” Palabay told Ubias and Rafael. 

Rafael also lied when asked for his identification card, saying he left it in the car. He eventually took it from his pocket when pressed, Palabay said.

The officers tried to justify their ruse by saying they would not be able to arrest respondents if they stick to legal procedures, she added. 

Ubias and Rafael apologized and left after their identification cards and documents were photocopied, Palabay said. 

Perjury complaint by Esperon

Palabay said the arrest warrant stemmed from a perjury case filed by national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in retaliation for the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data petition Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela filed with the Supreme Court in May 2019.

Esperon was among the respondents named in the petition of having threatened and red-baited officers and members of the three organizations.

“This (the perjury case) was initially dismissed by a Quezon City prosecutor, and then revived and filed in court by another prosecutor, after Esperon’s motion for reconsideration,” Palabay explained.

Palabay said she showed Ubias and Rafael the recall order for the arrest warrant against her.

The recall order of Palabay’s arrest warrant.

“They said they only received the arrest warrant yesterday and they haven’t received the recall order (issued on April 29, 2020! More than two months ago!),” Palabay said, adding she has posted bail and presented myself to an executive judge via online channels to secure the recall of the arrest warrant against her.

‘Does LBC know?’

In a Facebook post, Karapatan lawyer Ma. Sol Taule asked if the courier company knows its identity is being used by the PNP for undercover operations.

 “Alam ba ng LBC Express Inc na ginagamit niyo ang pangalan ng kompanya nila para mang-harass ng mga tao?” Taule asked. (Does LBC Express Inc. know that you [PNP] use their company to harass people?)

At ano naman kaya ang susunod niyong costume? Grab, Food Panda, Lala Move Delivery?” she asked, referring to other courier service companies in the country. (What costume would you be using next?)

Taule also asked the police if donning LBC uniforms is part of Rule 6.1 of the PNP’s operations manual.

The manual orders that arrest, search and seizure, checkpoint, roadblocks, demolition and civil disturbance management operations shall be conducted with a marked police vehicle, led by a Police Commissioned Officer (PCO), and with personnel in prescribed police uniform or attire.

Ubias and Rafael are non-commissioned officers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable

“With the conviction of Ressa and Santos, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the killings and threats against journalists, the numerous violations faced by Filipinos on a daily basis and the passage of the terror bill, a full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable.”–Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

‘Magpalaya na ng mga nakakulong’

“Nanawagan na ang United Nations na upang maiwasan ang higit pang delubyo na maaring idulot ng COVID-19, magpalaya na ng mga nakakulong. Palayain na yung matatanda, may sakit, low-risk offenders, kabilang dito ang mga bilanggong politikal sa bansa. Ayon sa BJMP, noong October 2019, umabot na ng 450% yung congestion rate o 380 out of 467 jails ay congested o siksikan. Sa kasalukuyan, merong 609 na bilanggong pulitikal sa bansa. 63 dyan may sakit, 47 mga matatanda na, 100 ay mga kababaihan. Huwag na nating hintayin pa na madagdagan ang bilang nila.”

Roneo “Jigs” Clamor
Deputy Secretary General, KARAPATAN

Carlo Francisco