71 countries line up to grill Philippines on human rights record

As the Philippine government prepares to face the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to defend its human rights record on May 29 in Geneva, Switzerland, some 71 countries have already lined up to ask questions to the PH delegation, according to the group Philippine UPR Watch. (list attached)

The Philippine government, for the second time, will undergo a review process under the Universal Periodic Review of the UNHRC. Filipino group Philippine UPR Watch said that the first country in the list is the Republic of Korea followed by the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Also on the list are the United States, United Kingdom, China, Italy, the Holy See, France, Belgium and Japan. Last on the list is Qatar. Each country is given 1 minute and 44 seconds to ask their questions.

The Philippine delegation will be headed by Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Around 14 Filipino human rights activists from the Philippines, Europe and the United States will be converging in Geneva to attend the UN session in the Philippines. These groups under the Philippine UPR watch have submitted their own alternative reports questioning the PH government’s human rights claims.

In 2008, the Philippine government made a commitment before the UN to eliminate extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Rights groups say that this commitment has not been met.

“The Philippine report is very underwhelming and provides no clear measure of progress in the Philippine human rights situation. On the contrary, the report glosses over the continuing human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The Philippine government has continued with a counter-insurgency program that targets unarmed activists,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr., who will also be in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR Watch.

“The most glaring fact is that the Philippines has a less than 1% conviction rate for extrajudicial killings. That translates to 99% injustice for human rights victims. That alone speaks volumes on the Philippine human rights situation and our legal system. This is one reason why impunity persists,” Reyes added.

An independent audit of around 400 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines showed that only 4 persons were convicted over the last 11 years. Many cases do not even reach the courts because of poor investigation and absence of witnesses. Karapatan meanwhile has documented 76 cases of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino regime.

“Up to now, Gen. Palparan remains at large. There is still no court case filed against the soldiers who killed renowned botanist and taxonomist Leonard Co. The masterminds of the killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio have not been charged. The torturers of the Morong 43 were even given promotions. Today, the Aquino’s spokesman has brushed off allegations of rights abuses, passing the buck to the AFP Human Rights Office,” Reyes said.

“While the Aquino government claims it is ‘mainstreaming’ human rights, many of the bad practices of the past regime continue. Human rights are not a priority. Aquino’s spokesman doesn’t think it is important enough to comment on, so he’s passing the issue to the AFP,” Reyes added. ###


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