Michel Forst, United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, mentioned Sen. Leila de Lima, ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa in his 20-page report on the situation of women human rights defenders submitted to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council earlier this year.
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo, Edd Gumban, Michael Varcas
UN rapporteur includes De Lima, Sereno, Ressa in report on rights defenders
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - February 18, 2019 - 5:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — A United Nations special rapporteur raised concern over the situation of Filipina human rights defenders, which he said include Sen. Leila de Lima, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

In a 20-page report submitted to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council from February 25 to March 22, Michel Forst, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, reviewed the situation of women human rights defenders in the country.

Forst noted that De Lima has been detained since February 2017 for denouncing President Rodrigo Duterte's violent campaign against illegal drugs, which critics and human rights advocates say has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations.

The government has routinely denied these allegations and has rejected statements of concern from abroad as meddling in domestic affairs.

"She has been held on politically motivated, non-bailable charges for violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; while in detention, she has been subject to restrictions," Forst said.

The report also cited Sereno, who was earlier ousted by her colleagues at the Supreme Court following a quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Voting 8-6, the SC magistrates ousted Sereno, rendering moot her looming impeachment trial before the Senate.

The UN rapporteur described the high tribunal's decision to oust Sereno as "widely considered unconstitutional."

"Ms. Sereno  had  objected  to  President  Duterte’s  policies  on  drugs  and  martial  law,  after which he publicly pushed for her resignation. When she refused to resign, he pushed for her impeachment,  even  ordering  Congress  to  remove  her," the report read.

Forst also mentioned Ressa, who was indicted for tax evasion "in what is considered political persecution in response to critical reporting on the government."

Just last week, Ressa was arrested over for a cyberlibel case, which stemmed from an article published in May 2012, four months before the Cybercrime Prevention Act was passed.

De Lima, Sereno and Ressa were all mentioned in the report's subsection on women human rights defenders in prominent and leadership positions.

"Women leaders who represent their groups and speak out on issues tend to be targeted for their visibility — not only to silence them but also to discourage broader dissent," Forst said.

Last December, Forst called on the Philippine government to end all forms of violations against human rights defenders.

"The government should review and desist from employing counter-insurgency measures which result in extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and human rights violations," he said.

The UN special rapporteur, however, shared his world report through his personal social media account and not on the official website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This pushed the Department of Foreign Affairs to seek clarification from the nature of Forst's report and to reiterate that the Philippine government is committed to uphold the rule of law and ensuring that human rights violations are properly investigated.

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