By Chito Chavez
Human rights group Karapatan has challenged the Duterte administration to allow the United Nations (UN) independent probe on supposed rights violations in the country.
The call was made on the heels of the statement of 11 UN human rights experts on the need for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines.
“Such is an apt and urgent response to the human rights crisis being faced by the Filipino people today under the Duterte administration. We support the call for the UN HRC to conduct an independent probe in the country,” said Karapatan Secretary Cristina Palabay.
The statement of UN human rights experts expressed alarm over the “scale and seriousness of the reported human rights violations” in the country.
The said mandate holders also reiterated that the government has allowed perpetrators unpunished, perpetrating a climate of impunity.
If the Duterte government has nothing to hide, Palabay insisted “it should be open and receptive to these forms of investigations, instead of being the foremost impediment to justice and accountability’’.
She maintained that it is high time for such a decisive action to be taken on the spiraling human rights situation in the country.
Palabay also asserted the government’s refusal will further discredit its membership in the UN Human Rights Council and it will be taken as a statement of non-transparency and utter disregard for its human rights obligations under binding treaties and agreements.
The statement was signed by the UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, the Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, UNSR on the Right to Food, UNSR on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, UNSR on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, UNSR on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UNSR on the Right to Health, UNSR on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNSR on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, and the UNSR on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
Karapatan noted the Duterte government has also previously withdrawn from the Rome Statute after cases were submitted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on State-perpetrated human rights violations.
“The government’s favorite line of defense when confronted with investigations is to bring up the concept of sovereignty on issues that involve accountability. This call is grounded on real reports that can be validated and ascertained, but were instead disregarded by the Philippine government,” Palabay said.
Palabay also raised that after the cases filed at the ICC, human rights organizations have been subjected to an orchestrated campaign of reprisals and malicious red-tagging.
Based on the turn of events, Palabay said human rights defenders are experiencing reprisals for their advocacy.
However, Palabay said human rights defenders “stand our ground and stress that upholding people’s rights is not a premeditated agenda against governments, but it is [a] necessary advocacy in ensuring that governments do not renege from their obligations as duty-bearers and align their policies with the objectives of building a just, humane, and dignified society’’.
“We anticipate the desperate response from the government and its mouthpieces. Duterte and his henchmen are not the victims, but are deliberate and conscious actors in the string of violations perpetrated against individuals and communities. As the Duterte government remains the foremost duty-bearer in the protection and promotion of human rights in the country, it should be held to account for these violations,” concluded Palabay.