October 7, 2021
On October 7, 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 45th Session adopted a resolution recommending “technical assistance” and “capacity-building” for the Philippine government and conducting “independent, full, and transparent” investigations to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses by State actors. The Philippine government committed to abide by the resolution. A year later, human rights violations are unrelenting and have even worsened.
Shortly after the release of the UNHRC resolution, the country saw impunity and disrespect by law enforcers on the death of Baby River, the three-month old daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino. Even after the UNHRC resolution, in the closing weeks of 2020, there were successive arrests and killings of activists and development workers – i.e., the arrest of peasant volunteer worker Amanda Echanis and her then one-month old son Baby Randall (December 2), the arrest of seven activists ironically on International Human Rights Day (December 10), the extra-judicial killing of Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband (December 17), and the killing of nine Tumanduk indigenous people and the arrest of 16 more in Panay (December 30).
Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) Spokesperson Liza Maza pointed out that “the reprehensible events that closed 2020 forecasted worse incidents in the following year”. She lamented: “It’s evident that even with international mechanisms like the UNHRC expressing indignation and alarm at the Philippine human rights crisis, State forces continued ‘business-as-usual’ with their violations”. The Bloody Sunday massacre that claimed the lives of seven activists in provinces adjoining the capital, the continuing extrajudicial killings of human rights advocates and people’s lawyers, and the non-stop arrests on baseless warrants attest to this.
The UN Philippines Resident Coordinator and the Philippine government signed the UN Joint Programme for the Technical Cooperation and Capacity-Building for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Philippines on July 22, 2021, amid continuing impunity.
In its final report, independent international investigation body Investigate PH asserts that the repression under the Duterte administration is being used to protect neoliberal economic interests of local and foreign elites. It also pointed out how government spending prioritizes militaristic pandemic response over providing immediate relief to the people.
CPDG and civil society organizations said that the Duterte administration’s Marcosian acts are adversely affecting free speech, with attacks on the press; eroding the rule of law, with even lawyers being killed; discouraging humanitarian work, with attacks on Church and development workers; and silencing dissent and inciting violence against critics, with online and offline intimidation of activists. “These pushed the Philippines further away from achieving strong institutions to promote peace, justice, and human rights,” narrated Maza in reference to the People’s Review of SDG 16 themed “Asserting People’s Right to Development and Governance Amid Shrinking Democratic Spaces” last July 19, 2021.
Despite this, human rights advocates and the civil society see a “glint of hope” with International Criminal Court (ICC) judges authorizing the investigation of extrajudicial killings under Pres. Duterte’s rule. The investigation is a benchmark in the people’s clamor against human rights violations. Maza said: “Continuing protests and shows of indignation are effective to bring international attention and pressure on the country’s human rights crisis”.
“No matter what happens, especially in the 2022 polls, the perpetrators of massive rights violations will be brought to justice. Human rights can only be defended and advanced if impunity ends,” said Maza.#