11 UN human rights experts renew call for on-the-ground investigation in Philippines


Eleven United Nations special rapporteurs, in a release June 25, have renewed their call to “establish an on-the-ground international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines.”

They also called to “strengthen the OHCHR mandate to continue its monitoring and reporting on the human rights violations in the Philippines. They also called on ICC to expedite and prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines.

They also called on “Member States to initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.”

“We call on the Government of the Philippines to demonstrate real and credible progress toward accountability by engaging with the OHCHR and developing an action plan towards the implementation of the OHCHR Report recommendations,” they said.

“The report, issued on 4 June 2020, confirmed our findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition. The report recognises important efforts to improve the protection of economic and social rights and stresses that these efforts should be guided by a human rights-based approach and focused on ‘leaving no one behind’. The reports also finds, as we had, stark and persistent impunity,” the eleven UN human rights experts said.

“Given the scale and seriousness of the human rights violations, we renew our call on the Human Rights Council to establish an on-the-ground independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines,” they added.

They also noted that COVID-19 has further accelerated the downward spiral of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“Police and the military have used violence and lethal force to enforce a quarantine imposed without due consideration for the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable communities,” the experts said. “In response to the protests of poor Filipinos demanding food aid amid the COVID-19 lockdown, President Duterte reportedly authorized police and security forces to kill protesters saying: ‘Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I’ll send you to the grave’.”

In response, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said “the Palace notes the statements made by 11 Special Rapporteurs yesterday.”

“The conclusions they have reached and the sanctions they have demanded confirm the lack of impartiality that has unfortunately tainted the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations when it comes to the Duterte Administration,” Secretary Roque added.

“We maintain that the Philippines has continuously discharged its obligations to punish violations of human rights. We have legislation and mechanisms against torture and enforced disappearances, laws to the enforce international humanitarian law, and penal laws that have been crafted to protect and promote human rights as enshrined in our Constitution,” he said.

Roque added that the Philippines has a working and independent judiciary that deals with violators of human rights, regardless of who they may be.

“As we said in our response to the Office of the High Commissioner’s report, issued in early June, our courts stand ready to receive and rule on any complaints. We call on the Special Rapporteurs to respect our legal system and the Philippines as a sovereign state,” Secretary Roque said.