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KODAO ASKS: Dapat bang panagutin si Duterte sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao?

Ginunita noong ika-10 ng Disyembre ang ika-71 na Pandaigdigang Araw para sa Karapatang Pantao kung kailan kinondena ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte.

Tinanong ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo sa kilos-protesta kung dapat bang managot si Duterte sa mga human rights violation sa ilalim ng kanyang gobyerno. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cueva/Kodao)

Broadcaster shot dead in Dumaguete

Another broadcaster was shot dead in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental early Thursday morning, Nov. 7, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

Dindo Generoso was driving his car when he was shot dead by a lone gunman along Hibbard Avenue in Barangay Piapi around 7:30 a.m., the NUJP said citing a spot police report.

“Colleagues said he was on his way to host his program on radio station dyEM 96.7 Bai Radio,” the NUJP Visayas safety office said in its report.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) said Generoso sustained eight gunshot wounds at different parts of his body that caused instant death.

PTFOMS added there may be more than one killer as “still unidentified perpetrators riding-in-tandem on a black motorcycle” were reportedly seen.

“This dastardly deed will not go unpunished. Whoever is behind this senseless murder will be brought to justice,” PTFOMS executive director Joel Sy Egco said in a statement.

Generoso was the second broadcaster murdered in Dumaguete City since Edmund Sestoso, who died on May 1, 2018, a day after he was shot on his way home from hosting his radio program.

The identity of Generoso’s killer and the motive for his murder was not yet clear, the NUJP said.

“If the murder is work-related, Generoso would be the 14th journalist to be murdered under the Duterte administration and the 187th since 1986,” the group added.

PTFOMS said Generoso was an anchor for development programs of the local government, including a controversial reclamation project that was halted by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) last week.

Generoso’s murder came 10 days after the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) released its 2019 report last October 29 revealing that the Philippines has the highest number of unsolved journalist murders in the world.

The CPJ’s 2019 Global Impunity Index, which “spotlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free,” also placed the country, the only one from Southeast Asia on its list, at fifth place while noting that it “has been among the worst five countries nearly every year since the index was first published in 2008.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hospital of Our Hope, System of Our Despair

by Gene Nisperos, MD

The Philippine General Hospital is the face of our perpetually neglected public healthcare system. As the biggest tertiary training hospital in the country, it provides specialized and very specialized services and training. It is also the end referral hospital of other public hospitals. Pero ito din ang Ospital ng Bayan na sadyang pinabayaan.

The ever-increasing number of patients in PGH reflects the country’s worsening social conditions. The poor’s limited access to basic services, aggravated by their absent economic power and the prohibitive costs of healthcare, all lead them to this single health institution.

Thus, we need to take a close, hard look at the state of PGH and its patients.

A casual stroll from the PGH Out-Patient Department (OPD) to the wards can break your heart.

Patients. Families. All are trying their best to get a measure of the health services they need, never mind deserve. Some are eating their baon along the sidewalk. Others are desperately trying to make their patients more comfortable under the sweltering heat and crowd. Many have been waiting in line since 3-4am just to get in.

A walk through the Emergency Room (ER) can break your spirit.

Everywhere, quietly, patients find small consolation in cold metal beds, in stretchers, in wheelchairs, or even in monobloc chairs. They fill up any unpeopled space that they can find and comfort is a luxury that they will readily forego if only to get seen and treated.

And all of them want to be seen, need to be seen. Many have travelled long distances hoping to be treated for their various infirmities. But the hospital is always shorthanded. The 4000-strong health personnel are almost always never enough for the deluge of patients that come daily.

The ER, currently under renovation, only has a 25-bed capacity. But its daily census is easily north of 150. In the last three years, PGH’s patient census has steadily increased from 586,000 to 647,000 per year.

There are patients who should be in the intensive care unit (ICU) but are still in the wards. There are patients who should be in the wards but are still in the ER. There are patients in “ectopic beds”, or beds in departments other than that where the patient should be confined in.

There is just not enough beds or space. There is just not enough health personnel.

Yes, even the best that PGH can provide remains too little. And everyone can do with much more.

Yet in spite of these, for 2020, Congress deemed it fit to cut the PGH budget rather than increase it. Apparently, for our honourable legislators, the less than P3 billion per year allocation is enough and there are more pressing matters to fund, like the P100 million pork barrel they will each get.

To provide its patients with the barest minimum, PGH needs about P5 billion per year. So why give the hospital much less than what it needs to operate?

Limited funds nga daw kasi.

Currently, around two-thirds of PGH’s budget goes to pay for its personnel, whose numbers cannot match those of the patients, even with medical and health sciences students taking up the cudgels.

Because of insufficient budget, the hospital cannot hire the additional health human resources it needs. It cannot even regularize the contractual employees it has. Worse, it is looking to further subcontract the work being done by institutional/utility workers, the “manongs” who brings patients around the hospital for their labs, x-rays, and what not.

About 25% of PGH’s budget goes to its operations, which directly benefit its patients. Even then, supplies and meds are often lacking so patients need to buy these outside.

Some laboratory exams are unavailable so these have to be done outside as well. Basic equipment, like respirators, have also been subcontracted to private firms and their use have to be paid for by patients.

All of these amount to out-of-pocket expenses that are catastrophic for an already impoverished patient.

To be fair, the PGH Administration exerts effort to augment the hospital’s funds. Donations from private individuals and/or corporations help stretch the meager resources. But at the end of the day, patients and health personnel alike, including students, shell out money to cover for what the hospital lacks.

Either that or they become mute witnesses to the consequences of unmet health needs: morbidity if not death.

PGH supporters calling for a higher budget for the country’s most important teaching hospital.

When government refuses to give enough funds, everyone suffers. Because in PGH, the need will always be much greater than what can be given. Sadly, this is being done to almost all public hospitals: they get less than half of the budget they need but are expected to operate fully, with VERY LITTLE support.

When health officials grow tired of asking enough to provide for what patients deserve, what is given is not even enough to provide for what patients need. When health officials console themselves by asking just enough to provide for what patients need, what is given is barely enough, so that patients expect even less.

This is government policy and it must be changed. THIS is the rotten system that refuses to see healthcare as a public good.

It is therefore right and fair to demand for a bigger budget for health and for PGH.

Every year, PGH should get P10 billion to give its patients the care THEY DESERVE. The hospital should not have to rely on the kind heart of philanthropists or on corporate social responsibility just to keep itself financially afloat. The hospital should NOT EXACT any more from the pockets of its patients and its staff.

The amount also enables PGH to hire and regularize enough hospital personnel to meet the ever-increasing demands of healthcare. The money affords the hospital enough to provide essential supplies and medicine, and ensures that the laboratory and diagnostic equipment are working.

If PGH is given the budget that it deserves, then it can fulfill its most important role: enable the poor and destitute to exercise, and maybe even experience, their right to health. #

Utos ng Hari

ni R.B. Abiva

Halos sa pagtitinda ng tinapa binuhay ni Aling Ason ang kanyang mga anak. Sa kanyang pagkakatanda’y kulang apat na dekada na niya itong hanapbuhay. At dahil nga sa katatagan niyang hinarap ang lumuluray-puno ng pagpapasakit  na ganti ng hirap at dusa, napagtapos niya lahat ang kanyang mga anak sa hasykul. Subalit hindi na sila kailanman nakatuntong sa kolehiyo sa kadahilanang inatake sa puso ang kapilas ng kanyang buhay, at sa kasamaang palad ay namatay ito na hindi man lamang nabigyan ng marangal na libing. Lahat ng kanilang impok ay nagamit sa pagpapagamot. Ang masama pa’y nagkandautang-utang sila nang may mataas na interes.

Mula nga noo’y nagkawatak-watak na ang pamilya ni Aling Ason. Namasukan bilang bodegero ng bigas at mais ang tatlo niyang mga anak na lalaki sa Siyudad ng San Jose, Nueva Ecija habang ang dalawa niyang anak na babae ay naging mga muchacha sa San Miguel, Bulakan na paglao’y napilitang mamasukan din bilang mga GRO sa isang kabaret na tambayan ng mga pahinante ng trak na nagluluwas ng kung anu-anong kalakal paloob-palabas ng Maynila. Puro panganay ang mga naging anak at nang malaman ito ng kanilang Ina, wala itong ibang naitugon kundi mabigat-makapal na hagulgol at pagkuyom sa dibdib na puno-mayaman sa pasakit. At mula nga noo’y sinisi na ni Aling Ason ang Diyos at ang kapalaran.

Hulyo 29 ng taong kasalukuyan, isang umagang tirik na tirik ang araw na sinasasabayan pa ng alingasaw ng sanga-sangang imburnal at alingasngas ng mga mamimili, ay umalingawngaw ang megaphone na hawak-hawak ng empleyado ng munisipyo. May kasama itong abugado, mga pulis, traffic aid, at eskirol. Inanunsiyo nitong lahat ng mga may puwesto sa gilid ng Pamilihang Bayan ng Tarlak ay papalayasin na at nakatakdang gibain ang kanilang mga puwesto kinabukasan. Ito raw ang utos ng Hari na nakatala sa Memorandum Circular 2019-121. Marami ang naalarma sa pabatid publiko. Marami ang nabahala kung saan na sila lulugar. Marami ang nag-isip kung paano na ang kanilang pamilya na sa mumong ganansiya lamang sa pagtitinda umaasa. Maraming katawan ang ngayo’y aligaga at hindi mapagsalubong ang katwiran ng utak at kalam ng tiyan!

Bago magtapos nga ang nasabing buwa’y naganap ang inaasahan. Maagang dumating sa Pamilihang Bayan ang empleyado ng munisipyo, ang abugado at ang bando ng mga armadong pulis na may kasamang kalalakihan na nasasandatahan ng maso, bareta, martilyo, at kabra. Totoo ngang babaklasin na nila ang mga istruktura na ayon sa kanilang Hari’y iligal ang pagkakatayo. Nang mga panahong yao’y nasa palengke na nga si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga panindang tinapa.

Sa malas nga nama’y siya pa ang unang sinita. Sinigawan siyang umalis na sa kanyang kinapupuwestuhan kung ayaw niyang masamsam ang kaniyang mga paninda. Sa gulat ay hindi nakagalaw ang matanda at wala itong ibang naiganti kundi isang mukha na puno ng bagabag at pagmamaka-awa  at tigalgal. Subalit bakal ang puso ng kanyang kaharap, linapitan lamang siya nito at hinablot nang malakas-pilit ang hawak nitong basket, na yari sa uway na puno ng tinapa. At dahil hamak na mas malakas ito sa matanda, bumagsak si Aling Ason kasama ng kanyang mga tinapa.

Dahil mahina-hina na ang tuhod ay unang lumagapak ang mukha sa marumi-basang sahig ng palengke, at nang i-angat ng matanda ang kanyang sarili’y tumambad sa madla ang duguan nitong ilong at bunganga. Nanginginig ang mga laylay na kalamnan nito habang lumuluha ang malabo na niyang mata. Usal niya sa may kapangyariha’y “ Parang awa niyo na, huwag niyong kunin itong aking paninda,” subalit ang tugon ng kaharap ay “ Katanda-tanda mo na’y hindi ka marunong sumunod sa batas! Mangmang! Hindi niyo na ba kami kinatatakutan?!” Akmang lalapit ang matanda subalit isang sampal-tulak ang kanyang natikman.

At ang mga sumunod na pangyayari’y naging laman nga ng balita. Nang umaga ngang yao’y nangagsisayaw ang mga anino, nag-iskrimahan ang mga braso-kamaong may hawak na kutsilyo-itak-tubo-kahoy, at umalimbukay sa mga kanal na tinangay naman ng hangin ang sanghaya ng dumanak na dugo ng mga anak ng araw. 

At bago nga lumubog ang araw at ganap na isilang ang takipsilim sa langit na siyang saksi, pinulot ang mga tadtad-warak-tumimbuwang na katawan ng mga mahihirap ng kani-kanilang mga kaanak. Ang isang katawang nakasubsob-basag ang bungo-butas ang leeg sa gilid ng latang basuraha’y ang naka-barong, naka-slaks, at naka-sapatos nang makintab na abugado. Walang pumapansin sa kanya maliban sa pulutong ng bangaw at langaw na sa kaniya’y nagpipiging. #

Oktubre 19, 2019, Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

Kodao Asks: Bakit kailangang itaas ang sahod ng mga empleyado sa pampublikong sektor?

Idinaos kamakailan ang “All Government Employees Unity Walk” sa Mendiola sa Maynila para manawagan ng dagdag sahod sa kanilang sektor. Kasabay nito, ipinagdiwang din sa isang kilos-protesta ang World Teachers’ Day kung saan libu-libong guro ang nakiisa.

Nagbigay saloobin sa Kodao Productions ang ilang mga pampublikong guro, manggagawang pangkalusugan at kawani ng pamahalaan kaugnay sa usapin ng makabuluhan at nakabubuhay na sahod. (Video nina Joseph Cuevas at Romie Malonzo/Kodao)


Duterte admin banning aid to hide human rights violations

by IBON Media

Research group IBON, a member of the multisectoral network AidWatch, said that the Duterte administration is stopping talks on new official development assistance (ODA) from 18 countries as part of its efforts to hide the worsening domestic human rights situation.

This includes Spain which is supporting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The group said that the show of standing up against foreign intervention in the country is hollow because the administration continues to receive much more ‘aid’ from China and the United States (US) despite their much larger and more damaging intervention in the Philippines.

The administration issued a memorandum on August 27, 2019 directing the suspension of all negotiations and signing of loan and grant agreements with the 18 countries of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council that recently supported a resolution to investigate human rights violations in the country.

These include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

AidWatch, a network actively working with different government agencies and stakeholders on ODA issues, noted that as of the first quarter of 2019, the 18 countries combined account for only US$525 million or less than 3% of the Philippines’ active loans and grants.

This is because only three of the 18 countries have active ODA here — Australia (US$476 million), Italy (US$41 million) and Spain (US$8.1 million).

There is also just an additional US$414 million in the pipeline from Australia (US$82 million), Austria (US$177 million), and the UK (US$155 million).

Active grants and loans mostly go to education, disaster management, agrarian reform and peace-building projects.

Spain however also provides almost US$6 million in grants as institutional support for the CHR under the Project Go-Just Human Rights-CHR project.

This started in February 2016 and is due to end in December 2019.

Aid in the pipeline is meanwhile overwhelmingly for transport infrastructure especially bridges, the group noted.

The president’s memo says that the government is in the process of ‘assessing’ relations with these countries.

AidWatch said that this is clearly a signal not just to the 18 countries but to the international community that it will not take any criticism about its human rights record and indeed that the only narrative about the human rights situation it allows will be its own sanitized version.

The administration has already said that it will not cooperate with the UN on any such investigation and that it will block the entry of any UN special rapporteurs.

The group said that this is however clearly not a principled stand against foreign intervention but a self-serving stand to cover up massive and rising human rights violations stemming from its violent ‘war on drugs’ and repression of activists and political opposition.

The Duterte administration continues to accept US$365 million in active ODA from China and looking to as much as US$10.6 billion more despite its gross intrusiveness in the West Philippine Sea, said the group.

It is also accepting US$887 million in active ODA and US$276 million in military aid over 2016-2020 from the US despite Philippine territory being used as a US military outpost hosting troops, warplanes, war materiel, equipment and bases.

IBON said that notwithstanding the president’s swagger and rhetoric, the country is clearly still under the thrall of big foreign powers and still wanting genuinely independent foreign policy. #

Tens of thousands brave the rain, threats from gov’t, to protest state of the nation

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — This year’s State of the Nation Address protest could be mistaken as a parade of under the sea creatures; only that it carries significant calls like “Atin ang Pinas! China layas!”

The almost 40,000 strong protesters withstood the heavy rain yesterday to echo their grievances against the Duterte administration ranging from its subservience to China to the workers’ call for salary increase and an end to contractualization.

Called as the United People’s SONA, groups vowed to further unite against a “dictator president.”

Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) commended the huge number of people who joined the protest, which, she said, shows the real state of the nation.

“Tuwang tuwa ang lolang aktibista nyo dito. Hindi kayo natakot sa ulan, at lalong lalo na hindi kayo natakot kay Duterte,” said Mananzan during the program. (Your activist grandma is elated. You were not afraid of the rain and most especially you are not afraid of Duterte.)

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

She said now is the time to unite and show the people’s strength especially that democracy is being threatened as Duterte has made steps to control all branches of government.

Duterte’s subservience to China

Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson, lambasted Duterte’s inaction on many issues hounding China and its incursion into the West Philippine Sea.

He said Duterte, like China, continues to neglect the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

He called Duterte, “bentador” and a traitor against the Filipino people when he admitted that he made a deal with China’s president, Xi Jin Ping, to not assert the right of the Philippines to the West Philippine Sea.

This, he added, is enough to file impeachment complaint against Duterte.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares asked, “What help did China extend to Duterte during the elections that he immediately changed after he won the presidency?”

Colmenares is referring to Duterte’s brave stance against China during the 2016 presidential elections.

He said there is no truth that China will wage war against the Philippines because the international community will surely oppose it. “Our neighboring countries, smaller than the Philippines at that, is standing against China’s incursion. But Duterte does not,” he added.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

3 years of Duterte presidency is misery for the people

The groups lamented that for three years, the administration of Duterte has not brought comfort to the Filipino people.

It has been three years of misery, they said, as life has become more difficult. The government data shows that inflation has gone down from 6.7 percent in the past year to 2.7 percent as of June this year. However, people of the marginalized sector did not feel it.

Former Agrarian Reform Secretary and Chairperson Emeritus of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Rafael Mariano said that with the enactment of Rice Tariffication Law, farmers experienced further bankruptcy with the influx of imported rice in the market. He said the price of the farmers’ produce are too cheap that they did not earn at all from their harvest. He said a palay now only costs P14 to P16 per kilo.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/ Bulatlat

“The cost of production is too expensive and yet they only sell it at a low price. This has resulted in the bankruptcy of many farmers,” Mariano said.

Leody De Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, meanwhile, criticized Duterte for not being true to his promise as contractualization has not ended. What’s worse is that there is the Security of Tenure bill, which, he said, only legalizes contractualization.

Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson said that under Duterte, workers work to live and not to earn.

“Three years under Duterte, workers’ wages are pegged far below living standards, contractualization remains rampant and legitimized, and unemployment is still one of the worst in Asia. The ITUC’s global index rights index listed Philippines as one of the top ten world’s worst country for workers in terms of trade union and human rights. If Duterte can’t do anything about it, then he must go,” said Labog.

Satire artist Mae Paner’s performance depicted the life of the Filipino people and how China has slowly taken over the Philippines. “Mayaman ang Pilinas, pero ang mga Pilipino naghihirap pa rin!” (The country is rich in resources but the Filipino people are still poor.) She wore a camiso chino with a net and a shark in her back painted with China’s flag.

Mothers from Rise Up for Life and for Rights also lamented how they were deprived of justice just because their loved ones were allegedly “drug users.” They appeal for independent investigation especially now that the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Iceland’s resolution to conduct comprehensive investigation on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay hit the Philippine National Police’s data on the drug-related killings saying that from 6,000 deaths, it is now 5,000.

“Are they like Comelec (Commission on Elections), the number changes in just a blink of an eye?” she asked.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

She also slammed the Duterte administration for attacking its critics — from Sen. Leila de Lima, the peace consultants, the farmers fighting for their land, activists and human rights defenders who are being slapped with trumped-up charges.

“To dissent against the government is not a crime. It is not terrorism,” she added.

Unite against dictatorship

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said a dictator can be defeated if the Filipino people are united.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

“The President is acting like a dictator and there seems to be no end to his evil designs. Where could we derive our strength? We could derive our power from collective action, from our united ranks fighting for sovereignty and democracy. Our unity is the only effective obstacle against a dictatorship,” Reyes said in Filipino.

Joshua Mata of Kalipunan said now more than ever the people should unite against Duterte. “We have experienced dictatorship before, will we let it happen again now?” he asked to which the people answered with a resounding no.

The program ended with a performance by rapper Calix with his song, Giyera ng Bulag, a single from Kolateral album that tackles Duterte’s so-called war on drugs. “Di mo ba nakita, Duterte, mga tao din kami!” (Can’t you see Duterte, we are humans.) was Calix’s last line that received applause from the audience. #

Karapatan lauds UNHRC resolution on the human rights crisis in the Philippines

Karapatan said it is pleased about the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution tabled by Iceland asking member-states to take concrete steps on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines during the council’s 41st session.

“Karapatan welcomes the UNHRC’s decision to pass this long overdue resolution. This comes at a most pressing and opportune time as the Duterte government is set to report on its “achievements” after 3 years in office. This is a significant step towards accountability and we applaud the UNHRC’s decision to not remain complicit amid the rights violations being perpetrated in the Philippines. This is not the end-all, be-all of our efforts to exact accountability, but we take it as a critical start. This is a decision on the side of justice,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said soon after learning of the resolution’s passage.

The Iceland resolution expressed concern on reported cases of extrajudicial killings in line with the drug war, but also raised the issue of reported violations targeting critics and human rights defenders.

According to Karapatan, the resolution urges the Philippine government to take all necessary measures to prevent extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with international norms and standards including on due process and the rule of law; and to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner and the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, including by facilitating country visits and preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation or retaliation.

“This is a significant and relevant move by Iceland, which was supported by 28 states. An independent investigation into reported human rights violations in line with the government’s anti-narcotics campaign and its counterinsurgency program is long overdue,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“This resolution will initiate the start of a close monitoring on the rights situation in the country. Other efforts domestically, regionally and internationally will likewise move forward, the aggregate of which will expectedly bring out the changes in policy and in leadership that prioritizes human and people’s rights,” the group explained.

Palabay said the UNHRC resolution is not an issue of sovereignty but of accountability.

The Philippines is signatory to binding human rights treaties that allow for such mechanisms of investigation and accountability.

“Duty-bearers who act contrary to their mandate of upholding human rights should expect to be made accountable. In the end, it comes down to exacting justice,” Palabay said.

“This is not a numbers game, as what this callous government tries to reason out. This systematic and state-perpetrated butchering of the Filipino people has reached international concern, and the clamor for change will only echo louder from here on,” she added.

“Despite the government’s efforts to discredit and malign victims, their relatives, and human rights organizations, many countries have already expressed alarm on our situation. We will continuously challenge the government to own up to its flagship policies, and face the consequences of peddling militarism at the expense of people’s rights,” Palabay concluded. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/Report by Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Extraordinary’ number of killings put Philippines under UN scrutiny

The 41st session of the United Nations Human Council (UNHRC) included the Philippines as among the countries that need special attention, citing the high number of deaths and extrajudicial killings connected with the Rodrigo Duterte government’s campaign against drug use.

In her opening statement Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachenet said that her office is very closely following the human rights situation in the Philippines, adding that the high number of deaths is extraordinary and that reports of extrajudicial killings are persistent.

“Even the officially confirmed number of 5,425 deaths would be a matter of most serious concern for any country,” she said.

Bachenet said that she welcomes recent statements made by UN Special Rapporteurs calling for action by the UNHRC.

She added that Philippine authorities should provide “comprehensive and transparent information” on the circumstances around the deaths as well as investigations related to reported human rights violations in the country.

Such actions, Bachenet said, “…could dispel any false allegations and help regain trust for the authorities.”

The High Commissioner added that human rights defenders as well as activists for land rights and the rights of indigenous peoples, journalists, lawyers, members of the Catholic clergy and others who have spoken out have received threats, sometimes publicly, from senior Government officials.

United National High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. (UNHRC photo)

Bachenet cited the case of UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz who the Duterte government wanted proscribed as a terrorist for her alleged ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines.

She, along with around 600 others, has since been delisted by the government after an international denunciation of the proscription.

Threats against Tauli-Corpuz’s and other human rights defenders and activities “…creates a very real risk of violence against them, and undermines rule of law, as well as the right to freedom of expression, Bachenet said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) welcomed Bachenet’s statements, saying the High Commissioner’s tenor and tone on the Philippine human rights situation “…reflect the desired credibility, objectivity, transparency and fairness on the matter.”

“It does not only underscore the urgency and imperative of squarely and decisively addressing the issue and concerns about these [extrajudicial killings] as well as other brazen human rights violations, many disguised or legitimized by color of legality and official sanction,” NUPL president Atty Edre Olalia told Kodao.

The public interest lawyer said Bachenet’s statement also highlights the significance of parallel or alternative avenues for redress and accountability in the international community.

“We look earnestly forward to a positive response from the UN Human Rights Council during its present session in Geneva,” Olalia added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UNCHR reports high level of internal displacement in PH

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) tagged the Philippines as among the countries with high levels of internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of 2018.

In its Global Trends Forced Displacement report, the international agency said that the Philippines has as many as 212,600 victims of forced internal displacement “due to armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations.”

While not listed in the report as among the 10 countries with the highest number of IDPs, the Philippines have been included in the worst 11 to 20 countries since 1980.

The UNCHR defines IDPs as people or groups of people who have been forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.

UNHCR’s 2018 report, however, only included IDPs who fled conflicts and those “suffering IDP-like situations.”

The agency said that an estimated 41.3 million people were internally displaced all over the world, according to estimates from its Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

This is an increase on the 40.0 million reported in 2017.

“The small declines of the previous years were reversed and the internally displaced population in 2018 was the largest ever reported by IDMC,” the UNCHR said.

The agency maintains an office in the Philippines

Militarization and IDPs

Local human rights group Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights told Kodao that IDPs in the Philippines are victims of militarization.

“Their displacement from their homes and communities are due to military operations. Most of the victims are peasants, indigenous peoples, and Moro peoples,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said Karapatan for its part has documented 449,284 victims of forced evacuations from July 2016 to March 2019.

‘Persons of concern’

The UN report also cited in its “persons of concern” category that about 80,000 Filipino Muslims went to live abroad.

“As in previous years, Filipino Muslims (80,000) who settled in Malaysia’s Sabah state were reported as ‘others of concern’ by Malaysia, the report said.

“Persons of concern” refers to individuals to whom UNHCR has extended its protection and assistance services based on humanitarian or other special grounds. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)