Human rights defenders from the Philippines submitted statements to the 42nd UN Human Rights Council sessions during the interactive dialogues with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and with the UN Assistant Secretary General on Human Rights Andrew Gilmour in Geneva, Switzerland on September 18 to 19, 2019.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay and Ecumenical Bishops Forum Executive Secretary Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, both with the delegation of human rights defenders, faith leaders and victims of rights violations under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice), bared before the council the escalating human rights violations against indigenous people in the Philippines.
Also speaking on behalf of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Palabay said “that the use of ordinary state’s laws have resulted to the criminalisation of leaders of indigenous peoples due to their defense of ancestral lands and their right to a safe and healthy environment. Anti- terror laws and criminal offenses as well as dangerous rhetoric and villification are used to intimidate them. They face reprisals when they access international rights mechanisms. At least 57 indigenous people were killed under the Duterte administration in the Philippines”
In his statement before the council, Ruazol raised the “compounded state of impunity in the Philippines, one that has rendered the indigenous peoples in the country highly vulnerable to worse human rights violations, and the seeming failure of the State’s justice system in providing partial justice and ensuring accountability for human rights violations perpetrated by State security forces.”
“Their self-governance systems are impaired by the State’s intrusion through its appointment of tribal leaders who have have been dealers for interests other than the indigenous peoples’ and through counterinsurgency programs that have promoted unpeace in indigenous communities. The Special Rapporteur herself along with indigenous human rights defenders in the Philippines have been subject to baseless accusations and smear campaigns,” Ruazol said, speaking also on behalf of the Commission of Churches and International Affairs of the World Council of Churches.
Among those referred to by Ruazol are the Lumad paramilitaries brought by the National Commission on Indigenous People to the UN HRC session.
Filipino defenders accessing UN mechanisms continue to face reprisals
In his report before the 42nd session of the UN HRC, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour noted the cases and updates on reprisals against human rights defenders of Karapatan and leaders of indigenous people’s organizations.
In her statement submitted to the UN HRC, Palabay lambasted the “unfounded information and allegations, including fake news that Karapatan has been unlawfully operating and our non-access of domestic mechanisms, that have been disseminated undermining the right of Filipino defenders to seek the HRC’s attention on reports of rights violations in the country, including those that involve women human rights defenders.”
“Public pronouncements of officials on access to the country of UN personnel seeking information on alleged rights violations have not been encouraging, even after the adoption of the resolution on the Philippines during the 41st Human Rights Council session,” she added.
Palabay called on the UN HRC to call on the Philippines to refrain from intimidating and promoting acts of reprisals on human rights defenders who access UN human rights mechanisms. “We likewise call on States, including the Philippine government, to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in accordance to the resolution adopted during the 41st session and pave the way for an independent report on the human rights situation in the Philippines,” she stated.
The Ecuvoice delegation has met with various diplomatic missions, international NGOs, churches, and Filipino migrants in Geneva since last week. Members of the delegation will be going to Reykjavik, Iceland to meet with Icelandic government officials, NGOs, church leaders and members of the Filipino and Icelandic communities. They will also participate in an emergency human rights summit organized by rights groups in Europe.