This July 11, the UN Human Rights Council took a stand to speak truth to power. Whether the Duterte government wants to hear it or not is irrelevant. The combined power of states who voted on the side of truth marks a new flashpoint that is more relevant in showing up the black hole that is this government’s human rights record. The UNHRC final vote indicates the intensifying isolation of the Duterte regime in the international arena because its barbaric and bullying policy on human rights, which is but a mirror image of the brutish character of its President, has no place in the community of civilized nations.
KAPATID, which is composed of families and supporters of political prisoners, is elated by the UNHRC decision and lauds the hard work of Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay, NUPL head Edre Olalia and IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon who traveled all the way to Geneva, scraping every centavo for their airfare, to help muster and steer the UNHRC vote toward a victory for justice and accountability.
Now let the investigation begin and a comprehensive report unfold on the true state of human rights in the Philippines. The report, however, to be complete in all aspects, must include the plight of political prisoners who represent a significant segment of human rights violations in our country.
Political prisoners personify the state policy of persecution and criminalization of political dissent, which has reached a peak under an administration that thrives by silencing its critics and imposing the presumption of guilt as the new normal.
The UNHRC must look into how the vast state apparatus is being employed, led by military-police agencies, to weaponize laws and coerce the entire judicial branch to go after targeted activists and critics. Search warrants and arrest procedures are manipulated. The planting of firearms and explosives upon arrest against leftist activists has become as predictable as the ritual of falsely charging them with nonbailable common crimes to keep them in indefinite detention.
The political prisoners are mostly poor and powerless. The human rights lawyers who have taken up their cases are themselves mostly poor and powerless, and are being hunted down and killed. May the UNHRC mechanism provide a venue to address the systematic scale of subversion of basic rights and the rule of law that breeds political prisoners in growing number.