Karapatan on PH gov’t rights report to the UN: Empty rhetoric despite continuing rights abuses and impunity

May 6, 2017

By Karapatan

“The Philippines’ State report for the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council demonstrate the government’s empty rhetoric on human and people’s rights. Impunity still remains, rights abuses continue, no one has been held to account for the violations and justice remains elusive for the victims,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, on the PH government report expected to be presented on May 8, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Palabay said human rights cases, including extrajudicial killings in line with the government’s counter-insurgency program and the war on drugs, were downplayed in the draft government report, while there were numerous misleading claims on compliance to the recommendations of States during the 2008 and 2012 UPR sessions.

The government report stated that there have been only two extrajudicial killings in the nine months of the Duterte administration. “Fifty five peasants and indigenous peoples were killed due to the counter-insurgency war of the military from July 2016 to April 2017, while hundreds if not thousands were killed in line with the anti-drug campaign of the corrupt and brutish police force. These figures are far from those stated in the PH report,” she explained.

Even weeks and days before the rights review, extrajudicial killings by military perpetrators continue, the most recent among the cases are the massacre of three residents in Masbate and an indigenous people’s leader in Compostela Valley.

On April 20, 2017, a grandmother and her two grandchildren were killed by composite elements of the 3rd Scout Ranger and 903rd Brigade in Sitio Lubugan, Brgy. Pananawan, Cawayan, Masabate. Lolita Pepito, 70, and her two grandkids, aged 9 and 12, were killed when State forces surrounded and indiscriminately fired at their residence. On May 4, 2017, at around 4 p.m., Lumad leader Federico Plaza was shot dead by unnamed assailants believed to be members of 71st and 46th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA).

Palabay also questioned government figures and claims on the outputs of the inter-agency committee on extra-legal killings, enforced disappearances, and torture, which was created by virtue of former President Benigno Aquino III’s Administrative Order 35 and headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. She cited Karapatan’s documentation on 249 victims of extrajudicial killing (including 12 cases of massacre), 244 torture victims, and 17 desaparecidos (from 2012-June 30,2016).

“No conviction has been attained in any of the said cases, nor has there been swift and impartial prosecution, while many of the State perpetrators have not been arrested to this day. The Aquino government’s accountability can never be glossed over by task forces that have not rendered justice and have instead acted as elegant smokescreens to absolve the perpetrators,” Palabay said.

“Despite previous recommendations of other States through international human rights mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), extrajudicial killings, torture and other rights abuses committed with impunity remain unabated due to continuing repressive State policies and counter-insurgency programs and the socio-economic and political ills that plague the country. These violations are State-sponsored, systemic and have affected a great majority of the Philippine population,” Palabay added.

“Past regimes and the current administration should be made to account, and crimes against the Filipino people be exposed. We need justice. We call on the Duterte administration to stop the killings and the fascist and repressive policies, and instead implement pro-people programs,” Palabay concluded.