Philippines unworthy of UN Security Council seat, rights groups say

Human rights groups said the Philippines is not worthy to become a member of the United Nations  (UN) Security Council because of “grave human rights violations” in the country.

The Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch from Geneva, Switzerland said the Philippine government is insincere in cooperating with the UN itself on human rights and its bid to join the Security Council must be stopped.

The UPR Watch said that at the ongoing 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary General and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights themselves reported on reprisal cases against human rights defenders in the Philippines , saying “there must be an end to other politically motivated charges, and a safer environment for civil society.”

The report before the Human Rights Council took special note of the perjury case against Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, and a member of Philippine UPR Watch, and the red-tagging of Karapatan and its staff.

“How can the Philippines take on the task of international peace and safety when it is much of an epic fail on the domestic front? Killings, disappearances, trumped-up charges happen day in, day out. Aggression on our seas conducted by foreign vessels is a regular occurrence,” National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) officer Kristina Conti said.

“The report on reprisals clearly indicates that the Philippine government is merely posturing before international bodies. The red-tagging, cases, and adversarial stance against human rights defenders and especially civil society organizations that engage with the UN are intended to stifle dissent and, ultimately, kill the civic space,” she added.

Conti further said that the Philippine government’s refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a direct challenge to international authority.

“Their campaign stands on quicksand. Members of the UN General Assembly will be able to access information from the different offices and agencies of the UN. They will hear about the inaction of the Philippine government on cases lodged in domestic and international fora,” Katribu’s Beverly Longid said.

Longid added that UN Special Rapporteurs are also formally monitoring the cases against indigenous peoples’ rights activist Windel Bolinget, who has engaged with the UN since the 1990s and was designated a terrorist by the Philippine government.

The Philippines reiterated its bid to be one of 10 temporary members of the UN Security Council in 2027-2028 at the session in New York.

The Philippine UPR delegation meanwhile is at the UN headquarters in Geneva lobbying at the session of the Human Rights Council, meeting with country missions, UN offices, and spoken at several sessions and side events reporting on the Philippines’ inability to rein in abuses of state forces.

“The so-called ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘war on terror’ have been bloody, intense, and continuous. We have a long list of police abuses, military brutality, and government misuse of power. The Philippines simply lacks credibility to join the UN Security Council because it is in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Conti said.

The Philippine UPR Watch said UN experts are currently raising with the Philippine government the safety of lawyers, in particular that of five NUPL members who have been killed, attacked, and red-tagged.

In a joint communication dated 15 June 2023, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Margaret Satterthwaite and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin asked the Philippine government to provide information about the investigation into attacks and explain how the government can ensure safety of lawyers and judges.

They are looking specifically into the killing of Juan Macababbad and the attempted killing of Angelo Karlo Guillen, and the surveillance, threats and “red-tagging” of Catherine Salucon, Edre Olalia, and Maria Sol Taule. # (Raymund B.Villanueva)

Pinoys in Europe urge UN to press investigations into Duterte’s human rights violations

Report and photo by Rex Culao

GENEVA, Switzerland—Filipinos in Europe held a rally at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in this city to press for an international investigation into harassments against human rights defenders and critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government in the Philippines.

Geneva Forum as well as Europe-based chapters of Migrante, Anakbayan and Gabriela gathered at the city center last Wednesday, October 6, as the 48th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was ongoing.

The groups said they also support the investigation by the International Criminal Court on the state of human rights in the Philippines.

“Activists have been killed over the last year, both by the security forces and by unknown individuals. In many instances, activists were killed after being red-tagged. In virtually none of the cases has anyone been held accountable for the killings,” the groups in a statement said.

The organizations urged the UNHRC to establish mechanisms that would address rights violations in the Philippines.

“We appeal to International organizations and community to help us put an immediate stop to the criminalization and attacks against activists, lawyers and journalists, which has continued over the year, with impunity, despite the fact that the UNHRC has adopted the resolution extending technical assistance and capacity-building to the Philippine government,” the protesters said.

In his speech, Fr. Angel Cortez of Franciscan International noted that the proposed investigation by the UNHRC on the state of human rights in the Philippines has yet to fully proceed.

“As a Filipino, I want to raise a voice and bring the voice of our people on the present situation in Duterte’s administration that until now there’s no independent investigation mandated by the UNHRC and the killings is go on amid the [coronavirus] pandemic.”

President Duterte said UNHRC and ICC investigations are unwanted interventions into internal matters and have threatened to slap and arrest international investigators who dare come into the Philippines.

During the rally, the protesters also expressed support to international rights institutions such as CIVICUS Monitor and Investigate PH that demanded accountability for the perpetrators of rights violations in the Philippines.

In a recent country research brief, CIVICUS Monitor said that “serious civic freedoms violations continue to occur, creating a chilling effect within civil society” a year after the UNHRCs adoption of a resolution that pointed out extrajudicial killings and political repression in the Philippines.

CIVICUS Monitor said the resolution is “profoundly weak” if it does not investigate violations in the Philippines as recommended by UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in 2020. #