International pressure mounts to investigate human rights in Philippines

Manila, Sep 18 (efe-epa).- Pressure from the international community to launch an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines is mounting after the European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday condemning abuse of power by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The document, adopted by 626 votes in favor, 7 against and 52 abstentions, appeals to the United National Human Rights Council, whose session is underway these days in Geneva, to adopt a resolution to “establish an independent international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016.”

The resolution is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country,” Cristina Palabay, the secretary general of Karapatan – a network of rights organizations that has been leading efforts to denounce abuses in the country – said in a statement on Friday.

The group urged the international community to “continue to stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines and the Filipino people who suffer in this worsening crisis of political repression and State violence under this increasingly tyrannical regime.”

The European lawmakers criticized the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations committed in the country under the guise of the war against drugs as shown in a report on the situation in the Philippines that the Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, presented in June, which found that the killings related to the government’s anti-drug campaign were “widespread and systematic” and which could constitute crimes against humanity instigated by Duterte’s government.

The European Parliament also recommends that the European Union temporarily suspend benefits extended to Filipino products until the country’s authorities conduct an “impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

According to the Philippine National Police, a total of 7,884 suspects have been killed in anti-drugs raids until Aug. 31.

However, human rights organizations put the number of deaths at between 27,000 and 30,000, including extrajudicial executions at the hands of law enforcement officers and killings by neighborhood vigilantes protected by the campaign’s climate of impunity.

The text adopted by the European Parliament also “condemns all threats, harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecutions, and violence” againstjournalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians, including the recent murders of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez, two well-known activists whom the government had linked with the communist guerrilla in an attempt to declare them as terrorists.

According to the UN, more than 250 community leaders have been killed in the Philippines since July 2016, when Duterte took office, and Global Witness has ranked the country as the world’s second most dangerous nation for land and environmental activists, only behind Colombia.

The resolution also mentions the deterioration of press freedom over the past year, when the Duterte administration has cracked down on media that is critical of its management with the closure of ABS-CBN – the largest media company in the Philippines – and the conviction of journalist Maria Ressa, director of the Rappler news portal, for cyber libel. EFE-EPA


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