As the Philippines’ human rights record takes its turn to be examined
by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, the country’s controversial
justice secretary has his work cut out for him. On Nov. 3, the UNHRC released its 13-page report
highlighting, among other issues, drug-related killings, corruption, and violence against women that marked the human rights crisis in the country under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.
More than 6,000 suspected drug dealers had been killed in police operations, according to data
released by the Philippine government. Human rights groups estimate as many as 30,000 deaths.
Justice secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has a steep hill to climb to prove his Nov. 10
statement that the Philippine government “assures full enjoyment of human rights by all Filipinos.” Llore Pasco
, whose two sons were extrajudicially killed during anti-drug operations in 2017, disagrees: “How can the government claim that it brought justice to the thousands of victims of Duterte’s drug war when no justice has been given my sons?” Pasco is again part of the Philippine UPR Watch delegation taking part in the UNHRC discussions as a representative of families of the victims of Duterte’s “drug war” under the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
The delegation has urged Remulla and the Marcos government to go beyond platitudes to show the world that it is doing enough to improve the dismal human rights situation in the Philippines. The delegation said, “If the Philippine government wishes respect, it must sincerely promise to stop human rights violations and prosecute past perpetrators,” reports Inquirer.net
Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assumed office in July, his critics said he has failed to demonstrate a serious commitment to human rights. In his first State of the Nation Address, he failed to mention human rights, justice, and peace, reports Rappler
. In so doing, he evaded the question of accountability for the estimated 27,000 Filipinos killed in Duterte’s bloody “drug war.”
Last September, Marcos Jr. appointed Richard Palpal-latoc
, described by Human Rights Watch as a “loyalist lawyer with no discernable experience in human rights work,” as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. The commission was created to respond to the atrocities committed during the martial law regime — the same atrocities Marcos Jr. and his family refuse to acknowledge.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a member of the delegation, filed a complaint before the U.N. to hold the Philippine government accountable for the attacks and killings of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. Under the Marcos Jr. administration, “members of the NUPL were … falsely branded as ‘urban operatives’ of the underground movement while the NUPL itself has been profiled as a ‘communist terrorist group’,” the NUPL said in a statement
. NUPL secretary general Josalee S. Deinla said, “If lawyers are hampered from freely and independently exercising their profession and if judges are threatened for their judicial decisions, access to justice and judicial independence will suffer.”