By Corina Oliquino
MANILA — Around 16 faith-based and rights groups under EcuVoice submitted their reports to the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR), six months after it set the deadline for submission of reports on January 31 as part of its July 2019 resolution directing UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to come up with a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
In a report by ABS-CBN News, labor groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Migrante included in their reports complaints against killings of farmers, peasants and labor leaders, as well as the alleged harassment and surveillance of Filipino migrants.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), on the other hand, said 15 journalists have been killed under the Duterte administration while environmental group Kalikasan PNE claimed 157 environmental defenders were killed from July 2016 until the end of 2019.
Gabriela and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, meanwhile, blamed the red-tagging of activists to the Philippine government’s “whole-of-nation approach” through Executive Order No. 70, which according to them resulted in more killings, harassment and intimidation.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and Save Our Schools Network both denounced the government’s profiling of members and criticized the forcible closure of Lumad schools by military forces.
“The extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary or illegal arrests and detention and other civil and political rights violations exacerbate the landlessness, lack of job security and gross inequalities faced by poor Filipinos. Such is the situation under the administration of President Duterte,” Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines Convenor Edita Burgos said in a press conference held in Quezon City.
“The Duterte administration’s anti-narcotics campaign, its counter-insurgency program through Oplan Kapanatagan and its “whole of nation attacks” under Executive Order No. 70, and its rampage against critics and political dissenters have immensely contributed to the hyper state of impunity,” Burgos said.
Moreover, economic think-thank IBON Foundation blamed the Philippine government’s “regressive tax reforms, agricultural crisis, low wages, limited social programs, privatization of social services and utilities and wrong infrastructure priorities for violating Filipinos’ economic rights under international law.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, has been accused by Rise Up For Life for the killings under the drug war, insisting the lack of government interest to probe and prosecute the crime and the perpetrators.
Worsening ‘killings’ in PH under the drug war
In the same report by ABS-CBN News, EcuVoice’s submissions follow the release of Amnesty International’s Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific report last January 30 which claimed extra-judicial executions in the Philippines continued with impunity in 2019.
The Amnesty International report cited official figures placing the death toll in police operations at 6,500 since Duterte assumed presidency in July 2016, “Killings by the police and unknown armed individuals remained rampant as the government’s violent ‘war on drugs’ reached its fourth year.”
“Victims continued to be overwhelmingly from poor and marginalized communities and often were part of unsubstantiated ‘drug watch lists’ that police continued to use in their operations. Police continued to allege that victims fought back requiring the use of deadly force, despite witness accounts that they were killed in cold blood,” it said, with human rights groups claiming much higher figures and the government’s own records show more than 20,000 other deaths were classified as homicide cases under investigation, mostly related to the drug war.
“Families were unable to obtain justice for their loved ones, due to enormous obstacles to filing cases against perpetrators, including fears of retaliation. There remained no meaningful accountability for the killings at the national level,” it added, also raising concerns over the rising number of murdered activists aligned with the political left and repression of human rights defenders, citing as example the cases of detained Senator Leila de Lima, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Vice-president Leni Robredo, as well as attacks against Rappler’s Maria Ressa.
Meanwhile, the Duterte administration and its policies will also be scrutinized by a UN Human Rights committee, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor on track to finish its “preliminary examination on alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines.”
Aside from these, the Philippines is also facing criticisms from international organizations over its human rights record, including the latest US Senate resolution sanctioning government officials linked to extra-judicial killings and the detention of de Lima by hindering their entry to the US.