Report and photo by Rex Culao
GENEVA, Switzerland—Filipinos in Europe held a rally at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in this city to press for an international investigation into harassments against human rights defenders and critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government in the Philippines.
Geneva Forum as well as Europe-based chapters of Migrante, Anakbayan and Gabriela gathered at the city center last Wednesday, October 6, as the 48th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was ongoing.
The groups said they also support the investigation by the International Criminal Court on the state of human rights in the Philippines.
“Activists have been killed over the last year, both by the security forces and by unknown individuals. In many instances, activists were killed after being red-tagged. In virtually none of the cases has anyone been held accountable for the killings,” the groups in a statement said.
The organizations urged the UNHRC to establish mechanisms that would address rights violations in the Philippines.
“We appeal to International organizations and community to help us put an immediate stop to the criminalization and attacks against activists, lawyers and journalists, which has continued over the year, with impunity, despite the fact that the UNHRC has adopted the resolution extending technical assistance and capacity-building to the Philippine government,” the protesters said.
In his speech, Fr. Angel Cortez of Franciscan International noted that the proposed investigation by the UNHRC on the state of human rights in the Philippines has yet to fully proceed.
“As a Filipino, I want to raise a voice and bring the voice of our people on the present situation in Duterte’s administration that until now there’s no independent investigation mandated by the UNHRC and the killings is go on amid the [coronavirus] pandemic.”
President Duterte said UNHRC and ICC investigations are unwanted interventions into internal matters and have threatened to slap and arrest international investigators who dare come into the Philippines.
During the rally, the protesters also expressed support to international rights institutions such as CIVICUS Monitor and Investigate PH that demanded accountability for the perpetrators of rights violations in the Philippines.
In a recent country research brief, CIVICUS Monitor said that “serious civic freedoms violations continue to occur, creating a chilling effect within civil society” a year after the UNHRCs adoption of a resolution that pointed out extrajudicial killings and political repression in the Philippines.
CIVICUS Monitor said the resolution is “profoundly weak” if it does not investigate violations in the Philippines as recommended by UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in 2020. # (Kodao.org)