CEST GENEVA – Philippine human rights activists have arrived in Geneva, Switzerland in time for the second cycle of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Philippines is scheduled to be reviewed on May 29. The UPR will review the national report of the Philippine government and measure it against its pledges and commitments during the 1st cycle of the UPR and when it applied for membership in the UN Human Rights Council.
Fifteen civil society groups belonging to the Philippine UPR Watch are represented by leaders and members of mass organizations in the Philippines while Filipino expatriates came from the United Kingdom, United States and The Netherlands from the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP).
The Philippine UPR Watch continued to vigorously lobby with the 71 countries that have signed up to question the Philippine government with its compliance to implement the recommendations put forward by 14 countries during the first cycle of the UPR held in 2008. The group has also been raising the government’s other unfulfilled commitments and ignored recommendations particularly put forward by the former UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.
The various Missions that the Philippine UPR Watch spoke with so far have expressed keen interest and serious concern on the continuous human rights violations committed by the state security forces and its paramilitary groups including extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, torture, intense militarization in the farmers’ and indigenous people communities to pave way for mining operations, migrant and children’s rights and the curtailment of other civil and political rights that are perpetrated alongside violations of economic, social and cultural rights.
Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, co-head of Philippine UPR Watch, said that under the administration of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, the human rights situation in the country has not essentially improved. The human rights violations committed by the previous government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have not been addressed and worse, it continues to occur under Aquino’s administration as institutionalized by the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
Hilao-Enriquez assailed the Aquino government downplaying of the human rights cases and misleading claims of compliance to the recommendations of the countries since the UPR meeting in 2008.
She also scored Malacanang in its reported plan to create another task force purportedly to address the continuing violations, saying that the victims do not need another task force on top of the multiple others already existing. These task forces have not concretely resolved the abuses but turned out to be passive yet inaccurate collators of information, formal deodorizers and elegant smokescreens for the government’s utter failure to stem impunity after all these years, she added.
The Philippine UPR Watch delegation in Geneva is made up of Marie Hilao-Enriquez (Karapatan), Cristina Palabay (Tanggol Bayi), Renato Reyes (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), Atty. Edre Olalia (National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers), Nardy Sabino (Promotion of Church People’s Response), Garry Martinez (Migrante), Beverly Longid (Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance), Argee Malayao (Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas), Bai Ali Indayla (Kawagib/Moro Christian People’s Alliance), Jaquiline Ruiz (Children’s Rehabilitation Center), Melona Daclan (Defend Job Philippines), Ernan Baldomero (Hustisya), and Rev. Fr. Jonash Joyohoy (Ramento Project for Rights Defenders).
They are joined by Dr. Angelica Gonzales (International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines), Melissa Roxas (Bayan-USA), Maribel Mapanao (Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-Switzerland), and two other delegates from the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-UK.