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UN urges Duterte gov’t to investigate, prosecute rights abusers anew

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) again urged the Rodrigo Duterte government  to conduct “independent, full, and transparent” investigations to ensure accountability for rights violations and abuses in the Philippines.

In a resolution Wednesday (Philippine time), the UNHRC also condemned all “acts of intimidation and reprisal, both online and offline” against human rights groups and other critics.”

In its 45th General Session from September 14 to October 7, the Council took note of the scathing report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) last June 4 detailing the Duterte government’s heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs that has resulted in serious human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.

[READ: UNITED NATIONS: Rights violations widespread and persistent under Duterte gov’t]

The new resolution recommended that OHCHR and Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet assist the Philippines in its “fulfillment of its international human rights obligations and commitments” through:

  • technical assistance and capacity-building for domestic investigative and accountability measures
  • data gathering on alleged police violations, engagement with civil society
  • national mechanism for reporting and follow-up
  • counter-terrorism legislation
  • and human rights-based approaches to drug control.

The resolution was sponsored by the Philippine government itself, along with fellow member-States India and Nepal, as well as non-members Hungary, Thailand, Turkey and Iceland.

‘Human rights crisis’

A human rights alliance said the latest UNHRC resolution indicates that the international community has acknowledged the human rights crisis in the Philippines and persists in its scrutiny of the Duterte government.

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) said the resolution is proof that the Duterte administration, despite its belligerent stance and statements in past HRC sessions, has also started to acknowledge “domestic and international pressure for justice and accountability” for its reported human rights violations.

“The resolution comes after the damning report of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the persistent and widespread killings and human rights violations in the Philippines, the numerous statements of UN Special Procedures expressing concern on the situation, the European Parliament resolution calling on the European Commission to initiate the temporary withdrawal of trade perks of the Philippines in the light of the serious rights violations, and the proposed measure at the US Congress to end military and police aid to the Philippine government,” EcuVoice said in a statement.

EcuVoice led the filing of dozens of reports of human rights violations by the Duterte government at the HRC’s 43rd General Session in Geneva, Switzerland last February and March that became part of Bachelet’s report recommending investigations to be conducted in the Philippines.

Human rights group Karapatan said the new resolution is “a sign that the international community remains committed in closely monitoring the situation of human rights in the country.”

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, however, expressed disappointment that the new resolution “looks over the urgent demands of victims, their families and communities” for in-country probes.

 “[I]t (the resolution) falls short of a decisive and adequate response to the worsening human rights crisis in the country — and we strongly believe that technical cooperation and capacity-building activities would not stop the administration’s human rights violations,” Palabay said.

Karapatan challenged the Duterte government to allow access to UN investigators if it has nothing to hide in line with Bachelet’s original recommendation.

It also urged governments, parliaments, civil society groups, and international non-governmental organizations to conduct independent investigations to validate the real human rights situation in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)

UN official slams rights violations in the Philippines, urges ‘options for int’l accountability’

A United Nations (UN) high commissioner urged the international body’s Human Rights Council (HRC) to mandate her office to continue monitoring and reporting on thousands of human rights violations in the Philippines.

In her remarks at the start of the UN HRC’s 44th general session in Geneva, Switzerland Tuesday, June 30, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said violations are “very serious” that requires the Council’s consideration of “options for international accountability measures.”

“I urge the Council to remain active and vigilant on the situation in the Philippines, by mandating my Office to continue monitoring and reporting, as well as through support for technical cooperation to implement the report’s recommendations,” Bachelet said.

Bachelet was introducing her 26-page report mandated by the Council’s Resolution 41/2 of July 2019 on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The high commissioner said Philippine laws and policies to counter national security threats and illegal drugs have been crafted and implemented in ways that severely impact human rights.

“They have resulted in thousands of killings, arbitrary detentions and the vilification of those who challenge these severe human rights violations,” Bachelet said.

She added that their investigations found more than 248 human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and trade unionists were killed between 2015 and 2019.

“This includes a large number of environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights defenders. Human rights defenders are routinely smeared as terrorists, enemies of the State and even viruses akin to COVID-19,” she said.

‘Worrisome anti-terror bill’

Although not a part of her report, Bachelet also mentioned concerns related to the anti-terrorism measure slated to become law this month.

“The recent passage of the new Anti-Terrorism Act heightens our concerns about the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism,” Bachelet said.

The high commissioner said the measure, once it becomes law and implement, could also have a further chilling effect on human rights and humanitarian work, hindering support to vulnerable and marginalized communities.

“So I would urge the President to refrain from signing the law and to initiate a broad-based consultation process to draft legislation that can effectively prevent and counter violent extremism – but which contains some safeguards to prevent its misuse against people engaged in peaceful criticism and advocacy. My Office is ready to assist in such a review,” she said.

‘Failed anti-drug war’

Bachelet’s report said it found serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, resulting from key official policies driving the so-called “war on drugs.”

It said such policies incite violence from the highest levels of the Duterte government.

“The campaign against illegal drugs is being carried out without due regard for the rule of law, due process and the human rights of people who may be using or selling drugs. The report finds that the killings have been widespread and systematic – and they are ongoing,” Bachelet said.

The high commissioner said they found near-total impunity, indicating unwillingness by the State to hold to account perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.

“Families of the victims, understandably, feel powerless, with the odds firmly stacked against justice,” she said.

Moreover, by senior government officials’ own admission, the draconian campaign has been ineffective in reducing the supply of illicit drugs, Bachelet added.

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice), an alliance that submitted a total of 16 reports in support of Resolution 42/1 expressed appreciation for Bachelet’s report.

“We subscribe to her findings and wholeheartedly support the recommendations, EcuVoice said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[NEXT IN THIS SERIES: Government’s reply and civil society’s reactions]

(PREVIOUS: UN submits PH rights record on Duterte’s 4th anniversary as president)

UNITED NATIONS: Rights violations widespread and persistent under Duterte gov’t

A day after Congress passed a new version of the Philippine anti-terrorism measure, the United Nations (UN) released a scathing report detailing widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

In a 26-page report Thursday, June 4, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the government’s heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.

Persistent impunity and formidable barriers to accessing justice need to be urgently addressed, the report said, also raising alarms over possible human rights violations by the prospective Human Security Act of 2020 that has been generating massive opposition among civil society groups since its passage by the House of Representatives Wednesday, June 3.

The report noted that many of the documented human rights concerns are long-standing but have become more acute in recent years.

“This has been manifested particularly starkly in the widespread and systematic killing of thousands of alleged drug suspects. Numerous human rights defenders have also been killed over the past five years,” the UN said.

The report said that the human rights violations brought about by the government’s focus on security threats are also reinforced by harmful rhetoric from high level officials.

The report also noted that the anti-drug killings range from “at least 8,663” to possibly triple the number.

The UN Human Rights Office also documented the work-related killing of at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists between 2015 and 2019.

There has been near impunity for these killings, with only one conviction for the killing of a drug suspect in a police operation since mid-2016, the report stated.

In gathering the report, the UN said it interviewed witnesses, family members, journalists and lawyers who expressed fears over their safety and a sense of powerlessness in the search for justice, resulting in a situation where “the practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable.”

Killings encouraged by highest officials

The UN Human Rights Office said it examined key policy documents relating to the campaign against illegal drugs and found a troubling lack of due process protections, and the use of language calling for “negation” and “neutralization” of drug suspects.

“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report stated.

“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report stated. (Malacañan photo)

Police raids on private households were routinely carried out without warrants, and post-operational spot reports examined by the Office indicated that evidence may have been falsified.

“Police repeatedly recovered guns bearing the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations,” suggesting some victims were unarmed at the time of their killing, the report revealed.

It added that human rights defenders have also been subject to verbal and physical attacks, threats and legal harassment in a manner that “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

Red-tagging as weapon

The report also identified “red-tagging” – labelling individuals or groups (including human rights defenders and NGOs) as communists or terrorists – as posing a serious threat to civil society and freedom of expression, noting that, in some cases, those who have been red-tagged were subsequently killed.

“Human rights advocacy is routinely equated with insurgency and the focus diverted to discrediting the messengers rather than examining the substance of the message,” the report said.

“This has muddied the space for debate, disagreement and for challenging State institutions and policies,” it added.

In the report, the UN Human Rights Office also detailed ongoing threats to freedom of expression, with legal charges and prosecutions being brought against journalists and senior politicians critical of the government, as well as actions to shut down media outlets.

Militarization

The report also examined human rights violations in Mindanao and Negros Island, which have seen increased militarization through Duterte’s imposition of emergency measures.

“The effect of this militarization – coupled with the long-standing presence of armed groups and the pressure by powerful landed elites and large business projects – is particularly dire on already embattled indigenous and farming communities,” the report said.

The UN said there are concerns that counter-insurgency policies have given rise to patterns resembling “those that characterize the anti-illegal drugs campaign, notably a presumption of guilt and lack of due process or effective oversight – this time against those suspected of supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army (CPP and NPA).”

The report also said it received unverified complaints against NPA killings, abductions, recruitment of children and extortion by the New People’s Army (NPA), a charge repeatedly denied by the Communist guerrillas.

A meeting room inside the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland (UN photo)

On to the UN Human Rights Council

The UN said there is a failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability for the violations thus far, hence the need for independent, impartial, credible investigations into all allegations of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Duterte government refused requests by the UNHCHR to conduct in-country investigations since the UN Human Rights Council passed the Iceland-sponsored resolution in July 2019 asking for an investigation on the killings connected with Duterte government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

The UNHCHR said its report is based on 893 written submissions, substantial input from the Government of the Philippines, analysis of legislation, police reports, court documents, videos, photos and other open source material, as well as interviews with victims and witnesses.

The report is due to be discussed at the next UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

‘A damming rebuff’

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) welcomed the UN Human Rights Office report, saying it highlights the practice of vilification, criminalization and elimination of free expression, democratic dissent and the continuing vicious attacks against civilians.

Ecuvoice said the facts and reality are undeniable and the report has practically rebuffed the Duterte administration of its false narrative and pretensions about human rights.

Ecuvoice sent a delegation to Geneva last February and March to participated in the UN HRC’s 43rd general session.

“It is a damning indictment of its non-compliance with principles, standards, instruments and conventions on human rights. The government must shape up and should seriously rethink its draconian approaches like institutionalizing opportunities for even more widespread violations through dubious “anti-terror” legislation, national security policies and those related to its bloody anti-narcotics campaign, the group said.

“We look forward to further concrete action and specific recommendations and resolutions when the report is taken up by the UNHR Council,” Ecuvoice said.

“We also hope this report is also taken into account and consideration by the International Criminal Court as well as the UN Human Rights Committee with its upcoming review on the Philippines,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Disclosure: The reporter, himself a victim of vilification and harassment, was part of the Ecuvoice delegation to the UN HRC’s 43rd General Session last February-March session in Geneva, Switzerland.)

‘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

UN red-flags PH police brutality during COVID lockdown

The United Nations (UN) cited the Philippines as among the countries that registered incidents of police brutality during its corona virus lockdown.

In a news item on High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s statement issued Monday, April 27, the UN said, “From South Africa to the Philippines and from Hungary to Jordan, Ms. Bachelet’s Office, (OHCHR), high-lighted allegations of abuse that appeared to transgress key basic freedoms.”

“Of ‘many dozens’ of countries where new COVID-related abuses have emerged, the OHCHR official went on to describe how the Philippines’ “highly militarised response” to the pandemic had led to the arrest of 120,000 people for violating the curfew,” it added.

“Emergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” Bachelet warned. “They should be used to cope effectively with the pandemic – nothing more, nothing less,” Bachelet said in her statement.

The High Commissioner’s statement came as a police officer assaulted a resident of a posh gated subdivision in Makati City while retired Philippine Army Corporal Winston Ragos, killed by the police in Quezon City last week, was being laid to rest at the nearby Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a Luzon-wide lockdown last March 15, thousands of so-called lockdown violators have been arrested with many ordered to stand under the heat of the sun as punishment.

Other forms of punishment include being hauled in pig pens, forced gardening, severe physical exercises, public-shaming and being locked up in already overcrowded jails, violating the government’s own physical-distancing orders.

The police and the government have defended the police actions, including those of local government units that have reportedly committed human rights violations in implementing the lockdown.

In one of his first press conferences after reinstatement as presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque said the alleged lockdown violators should be ashamed of themselves for making the Philippines as having the worst COVID record in Southeast Asia.

In her statement, Bachelet however said: “Shooting, detaining, or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making it difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to hospital to give birth. In some cases, people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them.”

Respect for people’s rights covered their inherent freedoms “across the spectrum, including economic, social, and cultural rights, and civil and political rights”, Bachelet explained, adding that protecting these was “fundamental to the success of the public health response and recovery from the pandemic.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘An example across the world,’ UN says of CPP’s ceasefire order

The United Nations (UN) welcomed the temporary ceasefire order of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), saying the group’s positive response to the call for a global ceasefire in the face of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic “will serve as an example across the world.”

In a statement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said they welcome the truce order issued by the CPP last Tuesday, March 24, against Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) armed forces.

“The Secretary-General (Guterres) encourages the parties to reach a lasting political solution and end this longstanding conflict,” Dujarric added, referring to the 51-year revolution led by the CPP.

The CPP is the first belligerent force in the world to respond to Guterres’ appeal issued last March 24.

UN’s statement on its website.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said the revolutionary forces in the Philippines deeply appreciates the UN recognition.

“We deeply appreciate the recognition extended by the UN Secretary General for the initiative of the revolutionary movement and the CPP to respond to his call for a global ceasefire in humanity’s common fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Agcaoili told Kodao in an online interview.

The CPP’s unilateral ceasefire order to all units and commands of the New People’s Army and the People’s Militias took effect starting midnight of today, Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The GRP earlier said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s advise for the CPP and its forces to observe its own ceasefire during the pandemic “is a positive development.”

The GRP earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)

Rights defenders tell UN of many rights violations in PH

GENEVA, Switzerland—A team of Filipino rights defenders here are preparing for another busy week calling for investigations by the United Nations (UN) on the state of human rights in the Philippines.

With three oral interventions one after the other last Friday, March 6, and another last Monday, March 2, the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) strongly urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to pass another resolution in June to look into various reports of many rights violations by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

But contrary to the confrontational stance employed by the government Mission in the ongoing 43rd UNHRC session here, the four speakers from EcuVoice unanimously supported the reports presented by UN special rapporteurs.

EcuVoice delegation co-leader and Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said last Friday that she welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders that noted “wide-ranging and cumulative violation of the rights of defenders.”

“This rings true in my particular case and that of human rights defenders of Karapatan. Twelve of my colleagues were killed by suspected State forces under the current administration, three have been arrested the past four months, and many more are facing trumped up charges. Women defenders face misogynist attacks, driven by discriminatory pronouncements of government officials,” Palabay said.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

Johanna dela Cruz of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines said they are also grateful for the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and support his conclusions and recommendations.

Dela Cruz said church people’s rights in the Philippines are violated, primarily those “doing their Christian mandate and mission of ministering to the poor and the marginalized. Bishops and Parish priests, particularly from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), were red-tagged, harassed by soldiers implicating them as rebels.”

National Council of Churches in the Philippines’s Johanna dela Cruz addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

EcuVoice head and International Association of Democratic Lawyers interim president Edre Olalia for his part reported to the UNHRC that in the 44 months of the Duterte administration, at least 48 lawyers including judges and prosecutors have been murdered.

“Human rights lawyers like Ben Ramos as well as lawyers handling drug-related cases continue to be brazenly attacked in various forms. Orchestrated smear campaigns and vilification by red-tagging, labelling and reprisal charges against human rights defenders at every opportunity continue with impunity,” Olalia said.

The three defender’s reports Friday brings to four the successful oral interventions presented by EcuVoice before the UNHRC.

Last Monday, Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment reported that there are serious challenges to life, security and liberty of environmental defenders in the Philippines, “which redound to transgressions on the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environmental of communities, including that of indigenous peoples and peasants.”

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment’s Clemente Bautista addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

“It must be noted that the EcuVoice delegation have welcomed all the UN special rapporteurs’ reports presented thus far, quite different from the bellicose stance of the Philippine government in the ongoing debates,” Olalia said.

This week, the UNHRC is scheduled to hear reports and oral interventions on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as well as reports on minorities despite a growing scare of the spread of the corona virus disease (COVID) in this country brought about by 24 confirmed cases.

COVID has also spread in neighboring France and Italy, prompting overseas and migrant Filipino workers to express travel and work concerns that are likely to be affected by stringent measures imposed on border crossings.

All side events at the UN in this city have been cancelled that has severely affected restaurant and café businesses of Filipino expatriates in this city. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)