PH human rights situation worsened amid pandemic – int’l watchdog

Photo courtesy of Investigate PH

THE human rights situation in the Philippines has gotten worse since last year, according to international rights watchdog Investigate PH.

In a 198-page report submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday, March 16, Investigate PH found that there is a “deepening human rights crisis in the Philippines.”

“With the drug war, the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the July 2020 passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and the Philippine government’s militarized response to COVID-19, the perpetration of human rights violations by state forces has become more institutionalized, orchestrated, and entrenched,” said the initial report.

It also pointed out that remedies for many cases of human right violations in the country are “insufficient and illusory.”

Investigate PH identified 10 indicators for the country’s supposed failure of domestic remedies:

1. obstruction of state authorities on investigations;
2. investigations of violations are not impartial;
3. available mechanisms for civilians to hold police and military accountable are failing;
4. court protections are inaccessible, slow, and discriminatory;
5. government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) constricts recourse to government agencies;
6. counter-insurgency activities are targeting lawyers, denying victims access to independent counsel;
7. efforts to challenge unjust laws through legal channels are being dismissed in court or repressed;
8. opposition political voices providing a check on the armed forces and executive power have been eliminated from the Supreme Court and Congress;
9. independent institutions and alternative platforms for accountability have been eviscerated or made practically inoperative;
10. even when remedies are secured, they are inadequate justice.

The report also noted that the political repression by state forces in the Philippines has become “more institutionalized, streamlined, and brazen.”

“Extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders, lawyers and judges, and peace consultants, have continued to climb,” it added.

Investigate PH urged the United Nations (UN) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to use “all available mechanisms to restrain these state abuses and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

It also said that the UNHRC needs to “create commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions, or investigations, to help improve the human rights situation in the Philippines, exert accountability, and deliver measurable as well as reliable justice to victims.”

“There is a sense of urgency here. The killings and degradation of human dignity are escalating as seen in the Report,” said Investigate PH commissioner Susan Henry-Crowe.

She added, “The UNHRC and the world has to rise to the challenge of putting an end to this. We have to act now and save innocent lives while we still can.”

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