EU Parliament condemns ‘rapidly deteriorating’ state of human rights, press freedom in Philippines

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
EU Parliament condemns �rapidly deteriorating� state of human rights, press freedom in Philippines
European MPs listen European Commission President's first state of the union speech during a plenary session at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on September 16, 2020.
AFP / John Thys

MANILA, Philippines — The European Parliament approved a resolution condemning the “rapid” deterioration of human rights and press freedom in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte and called on the current administration to address a range of serious issues.

The resolution, adopted Thursday with 626 votes in favor, seven against and 52 abstentions, denounced the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations related to the government’s internationally condemned war on drugs and the attacks and harassment against activists, trade unionists and journalists.

The European lawmakers urged the Philippine government to adopt and implement all the recommendations outlined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which include conducting independent investigations into such grave human rights violations.

“[The parliament] calls on the government of the Philippines to put an immediate end to all violence targeting suspected drug offenders and to disband private and state-backed paramilitary groups insists that the fights against illicit drugs must be pursued in full compliance with due process of law, in accordance with national and international law, and with emphasis on public health,” they said

The lawmakers also condemned the killings of peasant activist Randall Echanis and human rights worker Zara Alvarez, who were slain last month, and asked Philippine authorities to launch transparent and impartial probes into their deaths and other extrajudicial killings.

The European Parliament also called on the European Union and its member states to support the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council to launch an independent, on-the-ground investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016.

It likewise urged the International Criminal Court to “continue its inquiry into the allegations of crimes against humanity in the context of the killings during the ‘war on drugs.’”

The European Parliament issued similar calls since Duterte assumed office in 2016. It condemned extrajudicial killings in a resolution in 2016, adopted urged to free detained Senator Leila De Lima in 2017 and called for an end to drug-related killings in 2018.

Drop charges vs Ressa, grant ABS-CBN broadcast franchise

The European Parliament also denounced “all threats, harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecutions and violence against journalists” in the Philippines.

In 2020, the Philippines placed 136th out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index of Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF). Last year, it ranked 134th.

In particular, it called on the government to drop “politically motivated charges” against Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa and former writer-researcher Reynaldo Santos. Ressa and Santos were convicted of cyber libel last June.

The parliament also appealed to the government to renew the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN, the country’s top broadcaster, which was ordered shut following its franchise expiration in May.

Given the “seriousness” of human rights violations in the Philippines, the European lawmakers called on the European Commission to suspend trade incentives called Generalised Scheme of Preference (GSP+), “in the absence of any substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities.”

During the opening of the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on the Duterte government to revoke policies and rhetoric that lead to killings and other human rights abuses.

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