Philippines in UN list of countries that retaliate vs rights defenders

Human Rights Council

Manila, Philippines — The Philippines is included in the United Nations’ list of countries that it said has carried out the “shameful practice” of harsh reprisals and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists.

The annual report of UN Secretary-General António Guterres detailed allegations of killing, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, surveillance and criminalization of human rights defenders in 38 countries.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that the cases documented in the report were the tip of the iceberg.

“We are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate—and silence—civil society,” Gilmour said in a statement.

The government has rejected concerns on the human rights situation in the Philippines as politically motivated or as meddling in Philippine domestic affairs.

“P**** (son of a bitch) I will shoot you right there. You do not do that in my country. They render our cops inutile… because of human rights. P***** ka (Son of a bitch). You enjoy your human rights there in heaven,” the president said in August in comments that are typical of his view of human rights.

The United Nations list

The 38 countries comprise 29 with new cases and 19 with ongoing cases.

The new cases were in Bahrain, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Guatamela, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Myanmar, the Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Venezuela.

The report cited “defamatory and intimidating” public statements directed at the Commission on Human Rights and its chairperson Chito Gascon and the threat of the Duterte-allied House of Representatives to give the agency a measly annual budget of P1,000 before relenting to opposition from the Senate.

It also mentioned the imprisonment of Sen. Leila De Lima over drug-related charges.

“In addition to her arrest and detention, Ms. De Lima has been subject to intimidation, threats and judicial harassment in connection with her criticism of government policies surrounding the war on drugs, such as the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and drug users and President Duterte’s proposal to reinstate the death penalty, including when she was chair of the commission,” the report said.

Government petition to declare alleged communists as terrorists

The report, moreover, noted the government petition seeking to tag more than 600 people as ‘terrorists” under the Human Security Act of 2007.

There are at least 80 recognized human rights defenders, indigenous peoples’ representatives and representatives of community-based organizations on the list, UN said.

“A number of these individuals have been long-standing partners of the United Nations who believe their inclusion on this list is in part due to their international advocacy with the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, the universal periodic review, the treaty bodies and special procedures,” the report said.

Last month, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna), National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis and other human rights advocates were cleared as “non-parties” to the government petition.

UN experts had welcomed the resolution of the Manila court but appealed to the Philippine government to remove all human rights defenders from the list.

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