Government ignoring UN Human Rights-Asia letters of concern

The communications sent to the Philippines during the period were among the 61 sent by the UN human rights body to countries in Southeast Asia. Indonesia was the only other nation that snubbed the communications from the UN. CC0/Gellinger/Stock photo

MANILA, Philippines — Four times between December 2015 and November 2016, the United Nations officially communicated to the Philippines its concerns regarding human rights, but received no answer.

UN Human Rights-Asia said the four communications were allegation letters and urgent appeals regarding extrajudicial killings and the situation of human rights defenders and activists in the country.

The communications sent to the Philippines during the period were among the 61 sent by the UN human rights body to countries in Southeast Asia. Indonesia was the only other nation that snubbed the communications from the UN.

In the same period, Brunei received one, Cambodia and Indonesia, nine each; Lao, three; Malaysia, seven; Myanmar, four; Singapore, six; Thailand, eight; and Vietnam, 10.

Two communications were also sent to “non-state actors” regarding human rights violations associated with a dam development project in Laos.

The communications also concerned the death penalty, restrictions on freedom of opinion, violation of rights against minorities, LGBTI and migrants.

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“The response rate for the communications across the region was low, at about 34 percent, with no responses to any of the communications from Indonesia and the Philippines,” UN Human Rights-Asia said.

Special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Dainius Pras wrote to Manila on Aug.17 last year expressing grave concerns about the number of drug killings by police or vigilantes.

On Dec. 24, 2015, a communication was sent to the Philippines concerning human rights defenders and executions.

The subject was the alleged killing of three activists and attempted killing and filing of charges against a human rights defender.

One of the communications raised the issue of Aida Seisa, a human rights defender and spokesperson for Paquibato District Peasant Alliance, which led a fact finding mission in June 2015 to probe allegations of human rights violations by members of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Paquibato district in Davao City.

The Army unit later filed murder and frustrated murder charges against Seisa in connection with a skirmish between soldiers and members of the New People’s Army a month earlier.

On the night of June 13, 2015, Seisa’s house was fired upon by members of the 69th IB, killing Datu Ruben Laydan Enlog Jr., a tribal chieftain; Randy Lavarcon Carnasa, a village leader; and Oligario Quimbo, a farmer and activist.

Seisa escaped unharmed but the case filed against her remains pending.

Communication was also sent on May 24, 2016 on reports of arbitrary detention, suppression of freedom of opinion and expression of indigenous peoples, as well as on executions and torture.

The report detailed allegations of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention of farmers and their supporters who were calling for food assistance.

According to the information received by the UN body, police forces in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato violently dispersed farmers and their supporters who demanded food assistance in April 2016. Two protesters died in the violence that followed.

The third communication sent on Aug. 17, 2016 concerned executions, including 850 drug-related deaths.

The communication also cited various occasions when authorities publicly incited law enforcement officials and the public to kill persons suspected of committing drug-related offenses.

The fourth communication sent in November 2016 dealt with freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

The UN message concerned allegations of excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the police against protesters in Manila on Oct. 19, 2016.

Inciting to murder

In another report, the Human Rights Watch said President Duterte’s calling on the public to kill drug addicts as part of his anti-drug campaign was an incitement to commit murder for which he and some of his officials could be held criminally liable. The group also said the President showed a perverse idea of job creation when he asked returning overseas workers to consider helping him kill drug addicts as job alternative.

“On Tuesday, Duterte welcomed a returning group of overseas Filipino workers by telling them, ‘If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts,’’’ said Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division deputy director Phelim Kine.

He said Duterte’s latest exhortation for vigilante killings came as no surprise. “On June 30, he instructed the Philippine public, ‘If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself, as getting their parents to do it would be too painful’.”“Duterte has also repeatedly called for the Philippine National Police to target suspected drug users and drug dealers with extrajudicial violence, which could be considered instigating law enforcement to commit murder,” the group noted.

“The appalling death toll linked to Duterte’s ‘drug war’ suggests that his public calls for extrajudicial violence have found a receptive audience,” Kine noted.

“Since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016, police and unidentified gunmen together have killed more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers. Police claim to have killed 2,690 people, but this number doesn’t include the drug war victims Duterte calls ‘collateral damage’ – including children killed by stray police bullets.”  – With Marvin Sy and Rhodina Villanueva

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