De Lima to gov’t: Heed UN call to end attacks vs human-rights defenders
MANILA, Philippines — Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Thursday urged the Philippine government to heed a United Nations special rapporteur’s call to end the attacks against human-rights defenders in the country, notably those critical of the Duterte administration.
Last Dec. 19, UN special rapporteur Michel Forst released an assessment report which highlighted the so-called “stigmatization, defamation, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrest, and criminalization of defenders” as a key area of concern in the Philippines.
But Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo belittled Forst’s call as “reckless” and “irresponsible.”
Instead of being dismissive, the Duterte administration “should take a second hard look at how it has deliberately aimed its attacks to silence human-rights defenders, making us more vulnerable to harassment and our work more difficult and dangerous,” De Lima said.
The opposition senator pointed out that “intimidation, harassment and attacks against human-rights defenders are deliberate to suppress any criticism or opposition against the government.”
Forst, De Lima said, has also expressed concern over the lack of specific protection mechanisms for human-rights defenders at risk in the Philippines.
The detained senator said there are three legislative measures on the protection of human-rights defenders, which remain pending in Congress. This includes her Senate Bill (SB) No. 1699, or the Human Rights Defenders Act of 2018.
In a speech in Dimasalang town in Masbate on Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte has branded human-rights groups as “enemies of the state,” accusing them of wanting to destroy the government. /jpv
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