PCFS to the 44th regular session of the UNHRC: Uphold human rights in the Philippines!

Yesterday, a pride march in Manila, Philippines was met with undue police violence.

It was a peaceful protest – clad in face masks, rainbow flags, and colorful placards with physical distancing observed – until the police came. A few minutes into the supposedly short program, a score of police suddenly tackled one of the protesters. Tension escalated until all 20 of the marchers, comprising LGBTQ+ activists and allies of the community, were forcefully nabbed for alleged violations that police cannot even define. Arrest protocols and due process were grossly infringed.

Police also threatened to arrest jeepney drivers in Quezon City for begging along the streets, and they disapprove of relief efforts and feeding programs for the sector. Jeepney drivers lost their livelihood since Metro Manila was put in“community quarantine,” and it seems that they are left to starve on their own as the government pushes through with its planned jeepney phase-out.

During wee hours of the same day, state forces arrested seven Indigenous Lumad people in Northern Mindanao after raiding their homes. The operation was carried out without warrants, and firearms were planted to justify their apprehension. The victims are members of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, which fights for the right of the Lumad to their ancestral domains and self-determination.

In different parts of Visayas, earlier this week, four farmers were killed by police and military elements. Like previous cases of peasant killings, the victims were red-tagged for being affiliated with organizations that struggle for land rights. The Philippines remains to be the deadliest country for farmers in the world, with a record toll of 260 peasants politically killed under the present administration.

These incidents provide a glimpse of the worse to come in the Philippines once the Anti-Terror Bill lapses into law in a few days.

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) stands in solidarity with the Filipino people – the LGBTQ+ community, jeepney drivers,Indigenous Peoples, farmers, and all the other marginalized sectors – for their rights and welfare especially amid the country’s unabated COVID-19 pandemic. We vehemently condemn the flagrant human rights violations enabled by the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, including the criminalization of dissent and hunger as well as the reign of impunity.

A few days ahead of its 44th regular session, we urge the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to accept the report of UN rights chief Michele Bachelet on the human rights situation in the Philippines. PCFS hopes that the UNHRC and other UN member states would back the report’s recommendations and press the Philippine government to cooperate. Notably, laws and policies that legalize state terrorism in the country – such as the Memorandum Order No. 32, Executive Order No. 70, and the pending Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 – should be revoked.

We endorse the proposal for an independent probe on the human rights situation in the Philippines. In line with this, we laud, support,and echo the timely calls of the 31 independent experts from the 23 mandates of the UNHRC’s special procedures, particularly the establishment of an “on-the-ground international investigation.”

We also promote the call of the UN experts for UN member states to initiate “governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution” against Philippine officials perpetrating human rights abuses. Duterte and his cohorts in government should be held accountable for their corruption, negligence, and fascism as proven by their inept militarist approach to the pandemic and the swelling number of documented rights violations.

According to the UN experts, “The human rights situation in the Philippines has now reached a level of gravity requiring a robust intervention by the UN. The Human Rights Council must do everything in its power to prevent the continuation of widespread and systematic human rights abuses against the Philippines people.” We could not agree more. ###

Photo by Rouelle Umali.

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