UN-PH pact did not stop EJKs, says rights group
MANILA, Philippines — Continuous scrutiny of the Philippines’ human rights situation should be done by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council after a joint program the country forged with the UN last year failed to stop ongoing human rights violations in the country.
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, a regional rights group founded in the Philippines in 1991, and civil society organization Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, said the joint program “remains insufficient to address systematic and widespread human rights violations and ensure accountability.”
“We welcome the joint program’s priorities to strengthen domestic accountability mechanisms and rights-based approach to counterterrorism. However, it falls far short of these aims,” Ahmed Adam of the Asian Forum said during the just-concluded 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The joint program between the UN and the Philippines outlined “specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines,” which is part of the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution 45/33 adopted on Oct. 7, 2020.
Tagging and threats
It was signed on July 22, 2021, by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, UN resident coordinator to the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, and the late Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon.
Adam pointed out that the joint program “fails” to stem the “ongoing violations” of human rights in the Philippines, “including extrajudicial killings (EJKs); combat impunity; roll back institutionalized repression; and restore independence and credibility of democratic institutions.”
Adam also stressed the tagging and threats, for criticizing government policies, received by human rights activists and community leaders in the country.
The Supreme Court’s upholding of the controversial anti-terror law was also raised by Adam before the council.
“The Council must continue its scrutiny of the [human rights] situation in the Philippines, and in clear absence of domestic accountability, establish international accountability measures,” as recommended by UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet in June 2020, Adam said.
According to Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights group Karapatan, such accountability measures include independent investigations of the human rights situation in the Philippines and international sanctions under various Magnitsky laws around the world.
“Without genuine accountability, the joint program will serve only as a means for the [Philippine] government to evade justice under the cover of cooperation,” Adam pointed out.
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