Continuing rights violations belie PBBM’s promise to protect human rights, CSOs call govt to adopt stakeholder recommendations as UN review of PH human rights situation nears

August 11, 2022

Media Release

At the conclusion of a series of consultation-workshops on the state of human rights in the country, over 100 civil society organizations (CSOs) noted continuing rights violations and impunity in the new administration. They pointed out that this runs contrary to the promise President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr made in June, at a meeting with the UN resident Coordinator to the Philippines, to protect human rights during his administration.

The groups promised to keep raising their grave concerns as Pres. Marcos Jr speaks at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September and especially at the upcoming UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on November 2022. The country’s commitments to international human rights statutes are up for review in the 4th cycle of the UPR.

The CSOs registered their disappointment at the president’s position not to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) and said this sent a strong signal that impunity would continue under his watch. Rejoining the ICC and allowing its investigation on the Philippines to proceed is one of the most urgent recommendations put forward during the CSO consultations.

The ICC seeks to investigate the grave human rights abuses especially on the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) committed by the previous administration under then President Rodrigo Duterte in his bloody war on drugs campaign, including extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of activists and rights defenders.

“Violations of civil liberties and of economic, social and cultural rights continued despite the president’s promise to protect human rights and his administration’s unity theme,” said Maria Jennifer Guste, National Coordinator of the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG).

The recent report on the first year of the United Nations Joint Program (UNJP) with the Philippine government to improve the country’s human rights situation pointed out continuing EJKs in the war on drugs. There were 190 reported EJKs in 2022 including 41 in July 2022 alone.

There is likewise no let-up in the arbitrary arrest and detention of activists and rights defenders, including enforced disappearances, and in violence against children caught amid armed conflicts. The controversial red-tagging also continues with Vice President Sara Duterte herself prominently joining in.

The CSOs also pointed out the adverse trends needing to be addressed. CSOs noted the continuing deterioration in civil and political rights with increasing attacks on the people’s right to life and on the basic freedoms of expression, access to correct information, association, and assembly.

Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers stressed that: “The attacks on civil liberties especially of those critical of the government’s policies creates a chilling effect that inhibits democratic participation in governance and people’s right to development.” He also scored the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and E.O. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which are used to target development, human rights and humanitarian NGOs.

The CSOs also said that discrimination of vulnerable sectors – persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, Bangsamoro, women and children, youth, internally displaced persons, homeless, LGBTQ+, migrants – worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and that economic policies aggravate the destruction of the environment and climate change, both of which are borne most heavily by the poor.

“There is no clear environment and climate policy and instead continued environmental destruction,” Guste added. She pointed out the continued construction of large dams and reclamation projects damaging ecosystems and the resumption of large-scale mining operations.

The CSO recommendations include: ensuring an enabling and safe environment for democratic participation; stopping red-tagging and repealing laws that inhibit people’s civil and political rights; stopping the implementation of the overly profit-biased and market-oriented neoliberal development framework; and considering an alternative development framework that recognizes and upholds various civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to genuinely address poverty and inequality. ###

RECOMMENDATIONS from the “CSOs Consultation on the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines” on June 22-23, August 3-4, and August 10-11, 2022

We ask the current administration to heed the recommendations put forward by the stakeholders in this fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines. Among others:

  1. Ensure enabling environment/safe spaces/democratic participation. Stop red-tagging and repeal laws that inhibit people’s exercise of their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly including their rights to participation in governance and development planning.
    • Review and repeal laws and issuances such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, EO 70, and related mechanisms that repress Filipino citizens, communities, groups and individuals in the exercise of their civil and political rights (CPR) and enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR).
      • Abolish the NTF-ELCAC which sows disunity and red-tags and vilifies CSOs, POs, individuals, humanitarian and development workers with malicious accusations in the absence of due process and through spreading fake news and misinformation.
    • End restrictive/repressive policies (i.e., SEC memorandum orders, Note Verbale of the Department of Foreign Affairs, restrictive Anti Money Laundering Act provisions) that target legitimate CSOs and POs with restrictive requirements and threaten the freezing of accounts. These are intrusive and further shrink people’s participation in governance and development.
    • Strengthen our national human rights institution, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) with increased budget allocation and resources, personnel, and capacity to reach out to the broader community. Also provide prosecutorial powers.
    • Legislate the Human Rights Defenders Bill, the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill, and Environmental Defense Bill.
    • Allow the International Criminal Court (ICC) to pursue its independent investigation on the alleged crimes against humanity especially in relation to the Philippine government’s war on drugs. Relatedly, allow all other independent investigations on human rights violations committed by the Duterte administration including the ILO Tripartite High-Level Mission.
    • Render immediate and substantive justice for all victims of human rights violations with adequate compensation, indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation.
  2. Address poverty, which is one of the root causes of conflict, and pursue the steps needed towards just and peaceful democratic society.
    • Resume peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and any other belligerent groups in Mindanao, building on previously signed agreements and laws.
    • Ensure application of the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 and other similar international and legally binding laws to hold governments and corporations to account for greenwashing, misinformation/red-tagging and other graft and corruption practices.
  3. Stop the continuing implementation of the overly profit-biased and market-oriented neoliberal development framework. To genuinely address poverty and inequality, adopt an alternative development framework forwarded by the people that recognizes and upholds civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Among others:
    • Pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill to implement genuine agrarian reform
    • Repeal the Rice Trade Liberalization Law and pass the Rice Industry Development Act
    • Correct the methods for counting the poor, jobless and labor force to include the millions left uncounted
    • Improve indicators for monitoring needs and access to services by the elderly, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, women and children, LGBTQ+, informal workers, homeless
    • Pass the Security of Tenure Law
    • Implement a National Minimum Wage
    • Abolish the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern (JIPCO) and Alliance for Industrial Peace Program (AIPP) and allow workers in economic zones to freely associate and organize
    • Ensure social protection of all workers, including those in the informal economy. Pass the Magna Carta for Workers in the Informal Economy/Sector (MCWIE)
    • Strengthen the country’s public health system, including removal of barriers and ensuring access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and services
    • Re-align government priorities from debt servicing, infrastructure and security to development of agriculture and strategic industries, public health and social services.
    • Support CHR recommendation on a comprehensive review of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Heed Indigenous People’s (IP) call to abolish NCIP given its record of human rights violations against IPs and violation of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Cancel projects with fraudulent and manipulated FPIC
  4. Create and implement a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP-BHR). This provides a framework for the State to protect the human rights of communities and provide for effective remedial mechanisms when their human rights are infringed. It also provides the private sector a blueprint for responsible business conduct and how to address and mitigate the adverse impacts of their business operations in communities.

The series of CSOs consultation / workshops on the UN review of the Philippines human rights situations is organized by the Council for People’s Development and Governance and the Commission on Human Rights with support from the UN Philippines Office, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness.###