SPEAKER BY Nada Al-Nashif, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
At the 51st session of the Human Rights Council
FROM Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX
I present the report of the High Commissioner which reviews the implementation of Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 as well as the progress and results of technical cooperation and capacity-building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines since October 2020.
Since the High Commissioner’s full report in June 2020, OHCHR has been working closely with the United Nations country team under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, the government, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and various civil society organizations to develop and implement a three-way joint UN human rights program in the Philippines.
The joint programme, signed in July 2021, provides technical assistance and capacity building for reforms in six key areas: national investigative and accountability measures; collection of data on alleged police violations; the establishment of a national reporting and monitoring mechanism; civic space and engagement with civil society and the Commission on Human Rights; anti-terrorism legislation; and human rights-based approaches to drug control.
During this period, the Government has taken steps to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses to account. However, access to justice for victims remained elusive, due to limited monitoring of human rights investigations, inadequate investigative capacity and inter-agency cooperation, limited forensic capacity and slow legal proceedings. Victims’ willingness to engage was also hampered by inadequate support and protection and fear of reprisals.
In June 2020, an interagency panel was created to review 5,655 drug operations in which deaths occurred. However, none of the cases reviewed by the panel have so far resulted in convictions, with limited transparency and public scrutiny of the panel’s work. In August 2022, another interagency committee focused on extrajudicial executions and other serious violations in non-drug contexts also investigated 386 cases.
While official figures reflect a decrease in killings in counter-narcotics operations, the Bureau continues to receive allegations of unlawful killings and other human rights violations by members of the Philippine National Police . The Government has taken steps to address drug-related concerns through health-focused and evidence-based therapeutic and preventive approaches. Nonetheless, the overall approach remained punitive and safety-focused. Large numbers of people remain in pretrial detention for non-bailable drug offences, contributing to severe overcrowding in prisons and detention centres.
In the area of civic space, the UN Joint Program has begun to create spaces for engagement between government and human rights organizations. However, despite repeated calls from our Office and others to protect human rights and environmental defenders, journalists, lawyers, workers’ rights activists, faith-based and humanitarian workers, the killings, detentions arbitrary acts and physical and legal intimidation would continue. They are often the target of “red flags”, a tactic used to accuse individuals of being associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines – the New People’s Army.
The report recommends that the government pass a Human Rights Defenders Bill and implement measures to protect civic space to allow them to operate safely and without reprisals. We also urge the government to take all necessary steps to ensure the continued independence of the Philippine Human Rights Commission in its operations, in accordance with the Paris Principles. The process of appointing new commissioners by the new administration is being closely monitored and will send an important signal.
The passage in June 2020 of the Anti-Terrorism Act has raised concerns about its compliance with international human rights law, namely its broad definition of terrorism and that its implementation could lead to human rights violations. rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The law also contains provisions allowing detention without warrant or charge for up to 24 days and giving broad powers to members of the security forces to conduct surveillance, as well as to the Counter-Terrorism Council to designate groups and individuals as “terrorists.” “. without due process. In the context of the Philippines, there are concerns that the legislation will negatively impact civic space and put human rights and aid workers at risk.
The initial progress of the Joint United Nations Program has laid the foundation for future technical cooperation and capacity-building, as well as increased engagement between the Government, the national human rights institution and the civil society. This is an important and innovative model of how the UN system can work with government and national partners to address the concerns of this Council and implement the recommendations of human rights mechanisms. United Nations.
The joint program is now halfway through, and we welcome the commitment of the new administration after the elections in May this year.
Many victims and their families are still awaiting justice. So, in the time remaining for the Joint Programme, as well as other efforts, concrete progress on accountability is expected – to help put in place human rights reforms that will prevent recurring violations.
I urge the Council to continue to closely monitor the progress and results of these national and international initiatives, with a view to assessing other approaches for the future.
We expect the newly elected administration in the Philippines to show leadership on human rights and strengthening the rule of law. It is essential to maintain this momentum and this commitment. The Office stands ready to strengthen its presence in the field to continue working with all relevant actors in this important endeavour.