ASEAN rights body not addressing killings and attacks vs rights defenders in PH

“Since its establishment in 2009, the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has addressed a grand total of zero pressing concerns on human and people’s rights in the Philippines such as the killings and attacks against human rights defenders and indigenous peoples, killings in relation to the drug war, bombings and forcible evacuation of communities, especially with the martial law declaration in Mindanao,” said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Philippine-based human rights organization Karapatan, in the sidelines of a parallel gathering of non-governmental organizations to the 2017 Summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

Palabay said that even after the Philippine government’s signing of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012, the human rights situation in the country has worsened. “It is foolhardy to expect concrete actions and strong recommendations from the ASEAN regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines, when, for a long time, its human rights body has been rendered inutile and toothless in the protection and promotion of international human rights principles in the region, especially at a time of worsening attacks against people’s rights in South East Asia,” she explained.

Numerous human rights and people’s organizations have raised alarm and concern on the extrajudicial killings in line with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Under Duterte, Karapatan has recorded 98 killings of peasants, indigenous peoples, workers and human rights defenders, in accordance with the counter-insurgency program of the military. Nearly half a million Filipinos have forcibly evacuated from their homes due to aerial bombings with the martial law declaration in Mindanao and the government’s all-out war.

“Not a single critical word was heard from other ASEAN member states during the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council,” she stated.

Karapatan said Duterte’s latest remarks on holding a global human rights summit is one big joke. “All States, especially the Philippines and the US, are being made accountable by peoples in various arenas and platforms. Duterte’s proposed summit may just be another laughable and yet sordid display of fascists and hypocrites spitting on people’s rights,” Palabay said.

“The AICHR should act decisively to address the urgent concerns of peoples in South East Asia now, lest it fully exposes itself as another inter-governmental body that deodorizes governments such the Philippines, which are among the most notorious human rights violators in the world,” she concluded.