Human rights advocates have welcomed the recent United Nations report as a “damning indictment of the human rights situation in the Philippines.”
Lawyer Edre Olalia, chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), said the document validates the concerns over human rights violations in the country.
One of the findings includes a “pattern” in reports suggesting that police officers planted evidence in the anti-drug operations.
“The report yesterday is certainly a damning repudiation or rebuff of the false narrative that there are no serious human rights violations in the Philippines,” Olalia said in a webinar organized by the Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines on Friday.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has repeatedly justified killings in anti-drug operations, saying that officers had to use force because the suspects resisted arrest.
The report casts doubt on this “nanlaban fought back” narrative, citing that police “repeatedly recovered guns bearing the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations.”
“It’s quite a meticulous analysis of the evidence that can be properly verified by the Human Rights Council people and criticism of the defense of this program coming from the Duterte government people,” said Peter Murphy, chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) Global Council.
Murphy also said that the report has an impact in gaining more support for the Philippines from the international community.
“Clearly a report like this gives a lot of strength to the critics of Duterte and really weakens those people trying to defend him,” he said.
Olalia said the report “could not have come at a better time” as the country is currently in the middle of the debate over the controversial anti-terrorism bill.
“It is a signal to the government that the international community is watching, that people all over the world are not going to take this sitting down, and that we will stand for our rights and we will push back,” he said.
Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), agreed.
“The report is highly significant, relevant, and timely for the Filipino people in relation to the ongoing situation and what needs to be done. It runs counter to Duterte’s rail-roading of the so-called anti-terrorism bill,” he said.
Critics said that the anti-terrorism bill will erode human rights and worsen the climate of impunity in the country.
The webinar panelists also welcomed the recommendation of the report to “consider options for international accountability measures” if there are no “clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms.”
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is conducting a preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines. A group has also called on the Human Rights Council to establish an independent investigation.
“It took an independent international body of the committee of nations to validate the fact that there is indeed a failure of domestic remedies,” Olalia said.
“The report is very important in conforming that the authorities of the Philippine government have not provided the venue and have not given due attention to the human rights violations that the authorities themselves have perpetuated and condone,” Sison said./Stacy Ang