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UN report cites impunity for human rights violations in the Philippines

The report noted that while many of the human rights concerns it has documented are long-standing, however, it has become intense in recent years adding that the killing of alleged drug suspects has become widespread and systematic as well as the killing of numerous human rights defenders.

Related article: ‘Anti-Terror Bill worrying’ – UN report

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – “Persistent impunity and formidable barriers to accessing justice” must be urgently addressed in the Philippines.

This is the gist of a report on the situation of human rights in the Philippines released by United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Michel Bachelet yesterday, June 4.

The report was the result of the UN Human Rights Council’s adoption of the Iceland resolution on July 11, 2019.

In the report, it was stressed that “a heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations in the Philippines, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.”

The report is based on the 893 written submissions to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which it received last Jan. 31. These include the submissions from the Philippine government as well as the non-government organizations. A dialogue was held with government officials in Bangkok, Thailand. The OHCHR however did not receive a permission from the government to visit the the Philippines.

The key human rights issues in the UN report include the human rights violations in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs, national security and civic space, the situation of indigenous peoples, farmers and internally displaced people and incitement to hatred and violence.

The report noted that while many of the human rights concerns it has documented are long-standing, however, it has become intense in recent years adding that the killing of alleged drug suspects has become widespread and systematic as well as the killing of numerous human rights defenders.

Part of the conclusion of the High Commissioner’s report is “the need for independent, impartial and effective investigations into the killings and stands ready to assist credible efforts towards accountability at the national and international level.”

Killings

The report detailed its findings on the President Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs which have killed thousands from the time he began his presidency in 2016.

The OHCHR noted that the drug campaign-related killings “appear to have a widespread and systematic character.”

The report noted that the policy, particularly the Philippine National Police Command Memorandum Circular No. 16-2016 which launch the anti-illegal drugs campaign called Double Barrel have encouraged “violations of the due process.”

“The terms ‘negation’ and ‘neutralization’ of ‘drug personalities’ appear throughout Circular 16-2016. Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the report read.

The report also noted the inconsistent data of drug suspects killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. It said the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said there are 5,601 persons killed by the police since the launch of Double Barrel in July 1, 2016 until Jan. 31, 2020. In President Duterte’s 2017 Year-End report, there are also 16,355 “homicide cases as under investigations” listed as accomplishments in the fight against illegal drugs.

“The most conservative figure, based on Government data, suggests that since July 2016, 8,663 people have been killed – with other estimates of up to triple that number. This clearly illustrates the need for a transparent and comprehensive reporting system for data on killings by State and non-State actors,” the report read.

It also noted that the Police Internal Affairs Services (IAS) reportedly conducted 4,583 investigations between July 2016 and May 2019. However, only the case of 17 year-old Kian delos Santos was solved where three police officers were convicted.

The OHCHR also noted that administrative sanctions against the police are also insufficient as well as the lack of progress in the investigation of drug related cases referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.

On the killing of human rights defenders, the OHCHR has also documented that, between 2015 and 2019, at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in relation to their work.

These statistics were verified by the OHCHR. They said the requested to the Philippine government the figures on the said killings but did not receive anything.

The report also noted that the inclusion of 649 people in the Department of Justice’s petition to declare Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist groups under Human Security Act is “extremely dangerous.”

Read: Repackaged ‘terror list’ remains baseless, says rights lawyer

They cited as an example the killing of human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, Haide Flores, city councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas and lawyer Anthony Trinidad whose cases remain unsolved.

The report also cited raids in offices of non-government organizations which have resulted in the detention of some individuals and the charges they face including for illegal possession of firearms, abduction and sedition.

“While judicial remedies such  as the Supreme Court’s writ of amparo are available, in one recent case, civil society members seeking temporary protection orders against the Government were themselves charged with perjury,” the report read.

The OHCHR also noted the increase in the killing of lawyers over the past five years, many of whom are working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land rights of farmers and indigenous peoples.

“Most cases remain unresolved. Reprisals, threats and criminal charges, often for non-bailable offenses, against legal professionals involved in human rights cases are also prevalent,” the report read.

Read: Rights defenders decry revival of fabricated perjury charges

Bachelet said there is a “need for an independent, impartial and effective investigations into the killings.” She added that the UNHRC is also “ready to assist credible efforts towards accountability at the national and international level.”

Bachelet reiterated that “people who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights.”

“People who disagree with Government policies and criticize them, including in international fora, should not be vilified as terrorist sympathizers,” she added.

Rights groups, on the other hand, welcomed the report of the UNHRC. They said that the government should “seriously rethink its draconian approaches like institutionalizing opportunities for even more widespread violations through dubious ‘anti-terror’ legislation, national security policies and those related to its bloody anti-narcotics campaign,” Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) said in a statement. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

The post UN report cites impunity for human rights violations in the Philippines appeared first on Bulatlat.

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