15 November 2022
We Filipino migrants laud the many states attending the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) who listened to the pleas of civil society groups and rights defenders, studied and examined the facts and reports on the ground and bravely challenged the Philippine government to improve its human rights record.
The Philippine government delegation led by Department of Justice Secretary Remulla tried to downplay the rampant human rights violations in the country. It denied the existence of a policy of red-tagging and a culture of impunity. The international community’s interventions and recommendations during the UNHRC session constitute a rebuff of the Philippine government’s claims. Remulla’s outright denial of red-tagging flies in the face of many facts, foremost of which is the actions and statements of the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, and is a shamefaced reversal of his earlier defense before the UNHRC itself that redtagging is part of the country’s democracy.
A significant number of states such as Australia, Ireland and Costa Rica expressed grave concern over the extrajudicial killings and recommended that the Philippine government ensure that it holds accountable the perpetrators especially those who are members of state security forces. Meanwhile at least 38 countries such as Sweden, Ireland and Canada raised the issue of the curtailment of the rights to press freedom, freedom of expression, and a safe environment for civil society, and called on the Philippine government to take stronger measures to protect human rights defenders, indigenous and environmental rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and judges. Canada recommended to enact legislation on human rights while Austria called for amending the Anti-Terror Law.
How can DOJ Secretary Remulla claim that the Philippines “is a vibrant democracy, among the freest in the world,” when countless victims of human rights violations, including their families, have yet to see justice being served? The government has a poor track record of prosecuting perpetrators, and ordinary Filipinos critical of government policies continue to be targeted with harassment, threats and terrorist-tagging that can endanger their lives.
We did not hear any meaningful progress with regard to upholding the Filipino people’s economic and social rights. The Philippine government delegation did not report on how it is securing and advancing the most basic human rights of millions of Filipino families, especially the poor and marginalized sectors: the right to land, food, decent jobs and sustainable livelihood, decent housing, education, and healthcare.
The truth is we have yet to see plans and significant policy changes under the Marcos Jr. administration aimed at alleviating the suffering of Filipinos due to the intensifying economic crisis in the country. The Marcos Jr. government has not taken concrete steps to address growing unemployment and underemployment, decreasing value of wages, and the high prices of basic goods and commodities. It has instead significantly lowered the national budget for financial assistance and social services much-needed by Filipinos.
The Philippine government, as an early signatory to almost eight core international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Their Families, must not renege on its responsibility to implement its commitments to the international community, and the Filipino people.
We call on President Marcos Jr. and his administration to take seriously the recommendations of the international community and uphold the human rights of the Filipino people. Filipino migrants will continue to advance our campaigns to seek justice and hold the Duterte and Marcos administrations accountable for its attacks on the poor and rights defenders, its failed pandemic response, and its utter neglect of Filipino farmers, workers, healthcare workers, migrants, women, children and indigenous communities.
The government’s distorted view of human rights and twisting of facts, while unsurpising, continue to pose a real threat to human rights and democracy in our country. We call on the Filipino migrants and people to persevere in creating the antidote — organizing and mobilizing for change.###