Rights groups push for ‘immediate justice,’ independent probe on PH human rights abuses

Photo from the presentation of Cathy Lopez, coordinator for human rights research of IDEALS.

Frustrated over the little to no improvement in the human rights situation in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch, along with local human rights groups, urged the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council to issue a follow-up resolution and an immediate investigation into the drug war campaign.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 9, Lucy McKernan, Geneva Director at Human Rights Watch, recommended a follow-up Human Rights Council resolution to ensure immediate justice and compensation for drug war victims.

“It would be an injustice to millions of Filipinos if the UN now abandons its efforts. So the council needs to send a very strong message that the new presidency does not have a clean slate to commit new abuses,” she said.

McKernan also called for a Human Rights Council investigation on the drug war and a continuation of capacity-building efforts such as the UN Joint Program.

Launched on July 23, 2021, the UN led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Rights Council and the Philippine government launched a Joint Program to promote and protect human rights locally. Aside from implementing a human rights-based approach to counterterrorism measures, another proposed action point is filing charges against rights violators.

The Joint Program is the outcome of Human Rights Council Resolution 41/2 from the council’s 41st session. Adopted by the council on July 11, 2019, the resolution urged the Philippine government to investigate the drug war killings and improve the domestic human rights situation.

Aside from a Human Rights Council  investigation and a follow-up resolution, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said the UNHRC should take note of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s request to resume the probe into alleged crimes against humanity during the Philippines’ tenure as a member-state. (See also: ICC chamber invites victims, PHL government to submit ‘views, concerns’ on call to resume drug war probe)

Human rights violations continue under Marcos Jr. admin

Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) recorded 727 human rights cases of abuse throughout the term of former president Rodrigo Duterte, according to its Coordinator for Human Rights Research, Cathy Lopez.

She added that 329 of these violations were killings while 306 involved the taking of persons. “The victims are often males residing in urban poor areas. Many of them [are] breadwinners (sic) with families relying on them for sustenance,” Lopez shared.

Lopez added that rights violations connected to the drug war persist even under president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s administration. She disclosed their group is assisting in the cases of three victims killed in July.

In talking to families of the victims, IDEALS learned law enforcers only looked into half the deaths. “Almost all of the families stated that the actions on their cases were either non-existent or limited to the perfunctory taking of statement,” Lopez lamented.

Even after taking statements from victims’ families, police reports would contain different information.

The Human Rights Council  will open its 51st session on Monday, Sept. 15. A progress report of the UN Joint Program in the Philippines is on the agenda.