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International coalition to UNHRC: Exercise mandate, probe rights violations in PH

International coalition to UNHRC: Exercise mandate, probe rights violations in PH
Photo by Ezra Acayan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An international movement of grassroots groups of small food producers and food sovereignty advocates urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in its upcoming 45th session to heed the global clamor for an independent probe on the state-sponsored rights violations in the Philippines.

According to the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), the worsening attacks against marginalized sectors in the country due to the “state terrorism” of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warrant an urgent response from the UNHRC.

“The UNHRC should stop turning a blind eye on the glaring rights violations of the Philippine government by virtue of good faith. Lives are literally on the line, and the Council should be at the forefront of promoting and protecting human rights,” Chennaiah Poguri of PCFS Asia.

He pointed out that killings and massacres targeting peasants and land rights advocates are continuing in the Philippines, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been exploited to systematically carry out such state abuses.

As of August 2020, militant peasant group Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) has documented 274 peasants slain by suspected state forces under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. He cited the brutal killing of elderly veteran activist Randall Echanis and the massacre of nine Moro peasants in Kabacan, Cotabato province that both happened in August 2020.

“We join the hundreds of civil society groups that called for an ‘independent and impartial investigative mechanism’ to address the flagrant rights situation in the Philippines,” said Poguri.

He added that the UNHRC should listen to UN rights chief Michele Bachelet and its independent experts and endorse their recommendation for an on-ground investigation.

“In the 44th session of the UNHRC last June, Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that ‘context on the ground’ will give ‘credibility’ on the human rights assessment in the country. Wouldn’t a firsthand, independent probe best provide that to the Council?” Poguri raised.

He also criticized the Philippine government for being vocal against the proposed UNHRC investigation.

“If domestic mechanisms and remedies [in the Philippines]are indeed ‘well-established and functioning,’ then why do we continue to witness gruesome peasant killings especially amid pandemic? Even the country’s Commission on Human Rights endorses the probe,” questioned Poguri.

The PCFS Asia representative added, “If the UNHRC truly champions its mandate and the Philippines has nothing to hide, then there should be no issue in conducting a thorough investigation.”

PCFS has called for an independent probe on the rights situation in the Philippines since April 2019. The Coalition also supports various initiatives in support of the campaign to uphold and defend human rights in the country, including the September 14 Global Day of Action to call for an end to the killings in the Philippines led by local rights group Karapatan and the September 2020 Global Solidarity Month for the Philippines of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. ###