Civil society organizations (CSOs) said that the state of the country’s civil and political rights (CPR) and economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) has worsened in the last six years of the outgoing administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. The incoming Marcos administration should make the Duterte administration accountable for its grave human rights abuses including its criminal liability for its bloody war on drugs, they stressed.
The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR), supported by the United Nations (UN) in the Philippines, organized a “CSOs Consultation on the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines” on June 22-23 in preparation for the upcoming UPR of the Philippines before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on November 2022. Over 70 non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs) and individuals participated representing the broad range of basic sectors in the country.
The groups stressed that the UN’s on-going UPR is a venue to hold the Duterte government accountable and how the incoming administration acts here will show where it stands on human rights.
The two-day activity was held amid relentless attacks by the outgoing administration on CSOs critical of its human rights record and advocating for genuine reforms, which only confirmed the continuing urgency of getting accountability. The National Security Council (NSC) just red-tagged and censored the websites of rural advocates and alternative media groups.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon prompted the National Telecommunications Commission to order internet service providers to block access to the websites of alternative media outfits and various progressive organizations, including CPDG members. This is just the administration’s latest attack on civil society as part of its systematic effort to shrink civic and democratic spaces in the country.
The activity affirmed the country’s worsening human rights situation and stressed the importance of the UPR process for holding the Duterte administration accountable for its rights violations. The group’s recommendations to CSOs, the government and the UN as well as their points of unity and action for address short-term and strategic human rights concerns are contained in the activity’s communique.
The 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 profit-biased and overly 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.
The groups also strongly recommended that the CHR chair to be appointed be competent, qualified and a staunch human rights advocate with a good track record of working with the CHR and of collaborating with local and international human rights advocates.
The consultation-workshop body stressed that the incoming government has a chance to be independent and show its adherence to human rights in how it takes stock of the previous administration’s record. Immediately upon taking office, it can strengthen its cooperation with civil society and other stakeholders. It can also take real efforts to become accountable, open and transparent in complying with the recommendations put forward by civil society and by UN member countries. The recently concluded and the series of consultations to come are seen as strengthening civil society’s resolve to be more vigilant on how the incoming administration will address the country’s worsening human rights situation. ###