September 26, 2023
Lacks “safer environment for civil society”: Philippines Unworthy of UN Security Council Membership, Say Human Rights Groups
Geneva, Switzerland—Grave human rights violations in the Philippines, already acknowledged by various UN offices and agencies, alongside insincerity in cooperating with the UN and other international bodies, should stop the Philippine bid to join the UN Security Council, according to the Philippine UPR Watch.
At the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights reported on reprisal cases, and particularly for the Philippines, against the human rights organization Karapatan.
The Annual Report noted that “there must be an end to other politically motivated charges and a safer environment for civil society.” The report took special note of the perjury case against Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan and a member of Philippine UPR Watch. It also took note of the red-tagging of Karapatan and its staff.
“How can the Philippines take on the task of international peace and safety when it is much of an epic failure on the domestic front? Killings, disappearances, and trumped-up charges happen day in, day out. Aggression on our seas conducted by foreign vessels is a regular occurrence,” said Kristina Conti of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
“The report on reprisals clearly indicates that the Philippine government is merely posturing before international bodies. The red-tagging, cases, and adversarial stance against human rights defenders and especially civil society organizations that engage with the UN are intended to stifle dissent and, ultimately, kill the civic space. Also, the refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a direct challenge to international authority,” she added.
The Philippine government’s campaign “stands on quicksand,” said Beverly Longid of Katribu – Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas. “Members of the UN General Assembly will be able to access information from the different offices and agencies of the UN. They will hear about the inaction of the Philippine government on cases lodged in domestic and international fora,” she said.
Special rapporteurs are formally monitoring the cases against indigenous peoples’ rights activist Windel Bolinget, who was designated a terrorist by the Philippine government but who has engaged with the UN since the 1990s.
The groups also hit the Philippines government for its inability to rein in abuses of state forces. “The so-called ‘war on drugs’ and the ‘war on terror’ have been bloody, intense, and continuous. We have a long list of police abuses, military brutality, and government misuse of power.
The Philippines simply lacks credibility to join the UN Security Council because it is in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Atty. Conti.
UN experts are currently raising with the Philippine government the issue of the safety of lawyers, particularly since five NUPL members have been killed, attacked, and red-tagged. In a joint communication dated June 15, 2023, Margaret Satterthwaite, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, both asked the Philippine government to provide information about its investigation into the attacks. They also asked the government to explain how it can ensure the safety of lawyers and judges.
The two rapporteurs are looking specifically into the killing of lawyer Juan Macababbad, the attempted killing of lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, and the surveillance, threats, and “red-tagging” of lawyers Catherine Salucon, Edre Olalia, and Maria Sol Taule.
The Philippines reiterated its bid to be one of 10 temporary members of the UN Security Council in 2027-2028 at the session in New York. Meanwhile, the Philippine UPR Watch delegation is in Geneva, lobbying at the session of the UN Human Rights Council.
UPR Watch has also lobbied with country missions, other UN offices. It also spoke at several sessions and side events. #
Atty. Kristina Conti
National Union of People’s Lawyers
+63 929 820 7000
KATRIBU – Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas
+63 920 919 1820