Changes in culture, not just policies, needed to curb rights abuses – Investigate PH | Inquirer News

Changes in culture, not just policies, needed to curb rights abuses – Investigate PH

/ 12:35 AM March 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Changes in culture, not just government policies, are needed to curb rights abuses, according to Dr. Agnes Abuom, commissioner of Investigate PH, an independent body composed of various civil groups from all over the globe tasked with probing the rights situation in the Philippines.

“Even if we need policy changes and maybe constitutional changes, it is not enough. It has to do with a culture that needs to be changed,” Abuom said in the online forum conducted on Tuesday with the participation of media and various human rights groups.


“It has to do with the leadership that needs to understand that they are part of the global community, and the global community has sets of values that we go by, and need to uphold and work and lead with those values,” she added.


Abuom, who is also the moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, presented at the forum the first report of Investigate PH on the state of human rights in the Philippines.

According to Abuom, the report — which has been sent to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) — is very urgent because it seems that even evidence-based reports are being disregarded and set aside.

“This is an urgent matter. It’s a matter that has been going on for very long in terms of violations, and I think it is a shame to the global community that, even when we have evidence-based information, it is still not enough to push for transformation,” she explained.

“So I think it is important to state from the beginning that this Commission is concerned that it brings the evidence-based information from the ground to the various UN bodies particularly the human rights, and that can help them in actually understanding the reality on the ground,” she added.

Investigate PH was launched last Jan. 28 as an initiative-based group that would collate and submit reports on alleged rights abuses in the Philippines, especially those that occurred under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Investigate PH said last January that it was started after the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) decided to pull back on suggestions for it to conduct a full-blown probe inthe Philippines — which was eventually reduced to a resolution asking UNHRC member-states to extend technical assistance to the country.


Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson, an Investigate PH commissioner and general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, said during the online forum that one of the recommendations of the report was for the group to determine how many Filipinos are against a possible authoritarian government.

“I think that we need to immediately go to some of the concrete recommendations of this dramatic situation, and one of them of course is to locate what we’re doing in terms of the world rising up. We’re gathering energy to see people who are saying no to authoritarian governments and no to the erosion of mechanisms of international law,” Ferguson said.

“In all things take these cases to shine the light on the deeper sense of extrajudicial killings, torture, unjust detention, political repression through threats and red-tagging, forced evacuation, violations of freedom of press and assembly, other violations of the humanitarian law, those very structures are at play,” he added.

After the release UNHRC resolution, the Philippine government created a task force that would look into allegations of extrajudicial killings committed during the drug war, along with other rights violations.

However, local groups say that the government task force is all for show as controversies on supposed rights abuses — like the police operation that led to the death of nine activists last March 7 — are still happening.


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UNHRC resolution: No drug war probe but support, cooperation for PH efforts on human rights

TAGS: Rodrigo Duterte, UNHRC

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