A Protestant denomination urged the United Nations (UN) to ask the Philippine government to repeal its anti-terrorism law it says is being used to randomly arrest members of the clergy and other human rights defenders.
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) secretary general Bishop Melzar Labuntog told the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland last Thursday the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government is increasingly using the law to file trumped-up cases against rights defenders and church people.
Labuntog said that in Southern Tagalog region alone, Rev. Edwin Egar of the UCCP and Rev. Glofie Baluntong of the United Methodist Church as well as 13 others had been falsely charged under the said law.
Throughout the Philippines, there are 776 political prisoners are detained on false charges, Labuntog, citing Karaparan data, reported.
The UCCP prelate said two of their own Pastors, Rev. Nathaniel Vallente and Rev. Jimmy Teves, are unjustly detained.
“Our prison congestion rates are among the highest in the world, and yet people continue to be arrested for simply speaking up against the government,” Baluntong said.
“Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has not taken measures to address the continuing pattern of rights violations and repeated denial of due process,” the Bishop added.
Baluntong is a member of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch delegation to the ongoing 54th session of the UN HRC.
Respect health workers
A week earlier, the Council for Health and Development (CHD) also delivered an oral intervention in the debates asking the UN HRC to encourage member states such as the Philippines to ratify the proposed Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Katharina Berza of the CHD said countries must address the root causes of poverty and disease for a faster recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Berza added that civic spaces must also be respected and protected in the respective government’s responses to COVID.
For demanding just compensation during the worst years of the pandemic, health groups in the Philippines had been criticized by former government COVID task force adviser and now health secretary Teodoro Herbosa.
“[A]ll citizens, including health workers, must be able to express criticism of State policies detrimental to human rights,” Berza told the UN. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)