Rights situation in PH amplify calls for just and lasting peace

“Continuing assaults on people’s rights indicate the urgency for just and lasting peace in the Philippines. There is a need to make the Benigno Aquino III regime accountable for the crimes it has committed against the people, while pursuing the call for the Duterte government to stop dismissing and start addressing issues on rights violations and the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines,” said Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Jigs Clamor, in a press briefing of human rights defenders set to participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on May 8, 2017.

This will be the third cycle of the UPR on the Philippines, covering the period of review from May 2012 to September 2016. Filipino rights defenders will participate in the process led by the Philippine UPR Watch, a network of faith-based and human rights organizations and institutions established to engage in the said process to actively monitor the Philippine government’s adherence to its commitments to international human rights agreements and law. Since the 1st cycle of the UPR in 2008, the Philippine UPR Watch has been widely involved in monitoring and lobbying efforts to present the human rights situation that is grounded in the reality of the marginalized and oppressed sectors of Philippine society.

Clamor emphasized that “attacks on people’s rights through the killing and targeting of farmers and indigenous peoples, bombings of communities resulting to displacement, harassment of activists, and the rampant killing of the urban poor, lamentably indicate the need for substantial and comprehensive reforms.”

These issues, Clamor said, are also being tackled in the formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Karapatan’s participation in the UPR process and the ongoing #JustPeacePH speaking tour on the peace process in the US are also part of the ongoing campaigns on peace and human rights issues in the Philippines.

“As with rights abuses in past regimes, the implementation of US-driven counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan during BS Aquino’s term, and the now-operative Oplan Kapayapaan under the Duterte presidency, sets the stage for graver rights abuses. These repressive State policies legitimize the attacks against people’s rights, veiled under incriminating phrases such as ‘enemies of the State’. This is by design, institutionalized to quell dissent and genuine opposition, and has now led to the killings of 50 peasants and human rights defenders in the current administration,” said Clamor.

The Philippine UPR watch delegation is also set to tackle the issue on drug-related killings, in connection to the current government’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. Clamor said that “Duterte’s policy on drugs will continuously weigh on his administration, and it has to be addressed. We continuously challenge the current government to seriously tackle the socio-economic causes of such a problem and formulate a policy that gives credence to human dignity. The urban poor, already neglected and stripped off of their economic rights, are now being subjected to another form of violation.”

“Extrajudicial killings remained unabated since Martial Law and more recently, from the Arroyo, Aquino and the current Duterte regimes, despite national laws and recommendations of international bodies. Without addressing the roots of such violations, the climate of impunity continues to reign,” Clamor added.

“When people stand up to demand what is due them, they are met with State violence. As with the recent #OccupyLuisita campaign led by farmers and farmworkers, police and military elements, along with private goons, were deployed to harass the farmers and farmworkers. This is proof that peace comes not in the preservation of the status quo where the powerful remain in control, but in upholding genuine democracy and social justice” Clamor concluded.