faith in action

Call for UN-led investigation in Philippines

Report finds deliberate violations of human rights

Editor’s note: The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society, is one of 10 international commissioners for INVESTIGATE PH.

People’s organizations and civil society groups from all over the world have urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct a probe on human rights violations in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the launch of its Third Report last September 13.

INVESTIGATE PH, an independent investigation on human rights violations in the Philippines, aims to substantiate the report on the Philippine rights situation released by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) last June 2020 to help facilitate international accountability mechanisms.

The Third Report of INVESTIGATE PH examined violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people, and the denial of the people’s rights to self-determination, development and peace. It found that the Duterte government was deliberately violating these rights through its submission to U.S domination and neoliberal economic policies. It exposed the Philippine government ending peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in November 2017, under pressure from U.S. President Trump. Following this decision, seven peace consultants were killed by state security forces or unidentified assailants, with five of the seven being murdered after the June 2020 OHCHR report.

The launch of the report, which coincides with the opening of the 48th Regular Session of the UNHRC, was led by the Commissioners of the investigation, composed of parliamentarians, lawyers, religious leaders and activists from across the world. Human rights defenders, journalists, and various civil society organizations also joined.

“It is imperative that the Council heed the Filipino people’s call to conduct a probe on the rights violation under the Duterte administration amid impunity and failure of domestic mechanisms to provide redress to victims and hold perpetrators accountable.” Atty. Jeanne Mirer said. Atty. Mirer of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers is one of the High Commissioners.

The report concluded that human rights violations in the Philippines have intensified since the release of the June 2020 OHCHR report.

It showed that there was a 50 to 76 percent increase in drug war killings per month during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

The report also cited Duterte’s “whole-of-nation” approach to counterinsurgency led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which utilizes local and national institutions to wage attacks against human rights defenders, people’s organisations and civil society through mass arrests and detention on trumped-up charges, “red-tagging” and state-perpetrated killings.

The abuses have been worsened by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which has become a main instrument in the counterinsurgency program and is used to vilify activists and their organisations and to criminalize dissent.

The Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson of the World Communion of Reformed Churches said: “The Duterte administration’s systematic attacks against leaders of peasant and Indigenous People’s communities, peace consultants, human rights defenders, religious leaders and organizations that are fighting for people’s rights and pushing for meaningful social change should be condemned by the international community. It is our moral responsibility to exhaust all means to put an end to such atrocious acts and help victims’ in their struggle for justice.”

The three Reports produced by INVESTIGATE PH this year examine over 50 emblematic cases of human rights violations under Duterte, including the massacres of nine Tumandok Indigenous Peoples last December 30, 2020 and of nine activists on a “Bloody Sunday” last March 7, 2021.

INVESTIGATE PH began its investigation on human rights violations under the Duterte administration last December 2020. It released two previous reports last March and July 2021 respectively.

“The conclusion of our investigation and the final outcome report exposes how domestic mechanisms fail victims. As we anticipate the progress report on the OHCHR’s technical assistance on human rights to the Philippine government, we, again, call on the High Commissioner and the Council to mobilise international mechanisms to help victims and hold Duterte and other state perpetrators accountable.” The OHCHR will report on the progress of the technical cooperation with the Philippine government at the 48th UNHRC session on October 7.

The final report can be found here.