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UN experts stress need to probe human rights situation in the Philippines

The gravity of the human rights situation in the Philippines has reached a point where “robust intervention” is needed from the United Nations (UN), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Thursday.

The OHCHR renewed its call for an “on-the-ground independent, impartial investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines” in light of the findings of their report released June 4. 

The OHCHR also noted the police and military’s use of violence and lethal force to implement quarantine restrictions “without due consideration for the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable communities” amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The UN experts traced the “stark and persistent impunity” in the country to President Rodrigo Duterte’s rhetoric.

“Thousands in the Philippines have been killed as the direct result of the government policies. Domestic mechanisms responsible for ensuring accountability and protecting the rule of law have failed to do so,” they said.

The OHCHR earlier warned against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill, now awaiting Duterte’s signature, which could “dilute human rights safeguards” in the country. 

“The human rights situation in the Philippines has now reached a level of gravity requiring a robust intervention by the UN,” the OHCHR said.

“The Human Rights Council must do everything in its power to prevent the continuation of widespread and systematic human rights abuses against the Philippines people,” it added.

The UN experts urged the Human Rights Council to:

  • establish an on-the-ground international investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines
  • strengthen the OHCHR mandate to continue its monitoring and reporting on the human rights violations in the Philippines
  • call on the International Criminal Court to expedite and prioritize the completion of its preliminary examination of the situation in the Philippines

The experts also called on the Philippine government to demonstrate its accountability by engaging with the OHCHR and acting on the UN’s recommendations.

“We call on Member States to initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses,” they added.

Malacañang has repeatedly rejected the UN’s findings on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

On June 6, the Palace said it “noted” the OHCHR’s recommendations but disagreed with its “faulty” conclusions. 

After the UN said the government was using the pandemic to crush dissent, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said “freedom of expression is not absolute.” —LDF, GMA News