GENEVA, Switzerland—A group of Filipino rights defenders here criticized the approach being taken by the Philippine government to the ongoing 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council they said “consistently challenges recommendations made by UN experts.”
The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) delegation said that in its two oral interventions this week, the government challenged the report of both UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst “in a rather impertinent tone.”
“We are amused and amazed with the way the Philippine government is comporting itself in this arena of international dialogue and diplomacy by directly challenging not just the reports but the Special Rapporteurs themselves,” EcuVoice delegation co- head Cristina Palabay said.
“Madam Special Rapporteur, you have addressed in your report the need for due diligence policies within the UN system to ensure that practices on countering terrorism and extremism are compliant with international human rights law. However, do you also see the need for a similar due diligence review by the UN and international organizations to ensure that funding support are not channelled by organizations towards actors professing terrorism?” the government Mission said.
The government also challenged some of the concerns raised by Aoláin by saying her suggestions “merit a more serious thought and debate, to ask in particular, if these concerns can hold their weight against realities on the ground.”
Aoláin in her report concluded that many violent extremism prevention programmes worldwide are directly contributing to human rights violations and may even foster radicalization instead of preventing it.
Aoláin also encouraged the entire UN to review its entire counter-terrorism architecture to better protect human rights and the rule of law when they support and member countries’ programmes.
“But look at how the government acts so defensively at well-intentioned reports that it reacts so vociferously, violently even, to general recommendations that are not particularly directed at the Philippines. Such defensiveness often betrays guilt,” EcuVoice head Atty. Edre Olalia said.
Earlier last Wednesday, the government also challenged UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst’s report by telling him to investigate human rights defenders instead, EcuVoice said.
EcuVoice said Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary Martin Andanar set the tone last week for the government’s stance at the ongoing sessions by trying to mislead the international community with his “ludicrous if only it is not perilous” spins and slants on press freedom.
“Because the entire world now sees the many thousands of dead bodies on Philippine streets killed by the so-called war against illegal drugs and disapproves official hate speech and reprisals against critics and dissenters, it is apparent that the Duterte administration has chosen that the best defense is an offense in the UN,” Olalia said.
EcuVoice spearheaded the submission of several reports of human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government to the 43rd UNHRC Regular Session in this city in accordance with the Iceland-led resolution of July 2019 calling for investigations in the Philippines.
Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon is also expected to attend the sessions here next week and to file his agency’s report on the state of human rights in the past 44 months of the Duterte administration. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
[Disclosure: Aside from covering the regular session, the reporter, himself a victim of red-tagging, intended to present an oral intervention as an alternative and human rights journalist.]