US State Dep’t: Harassment of left-leaning rights activists continue under Marcos Jr. admin

US State Dep�t: Harassment of left-leaning rights activists continue under Marcos Jr. admin
Protesters assemble in front of CCP grounds for the Black Friday Protest. Police personnel block their entry to PICC for the COMELEC Canvassing, Friday, May 13.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:49 p.m.) — A new report published by the US State Department noted that while the Philippines has moved forward from being uncooperative with global human rights groups, but abuses still continue under the Marcos Jr. administration.

It also noted that the government’s own rights bodies also did not have enough resources to follow up on leads or reports presented to local offices. 

“Leftist and left-leaning human rights activists continued to report harassment by local security forces, including arbitrary arrest and abuse of detainees by police and prison officials,” the report read. 

It also recalled recalled how President Rodrigo Duterte’s government refused to cooperate or even recognize and respond to the findings or cases highlighted by human rights groups.

More evidently, Duterte refused to cooperate with the International Criminical Court when it sought to complete an investigation on the killings caused by his administration’s “war on drugs.” 

The Philippines notified the United Nations secretary-general that it would be withdrawing from the ICC’s Rome Statue to prevent further investigations. Even after his presidency, Duterte said the probe would be an “insult” to the country.

Fact check: Philippines has obligations despite leaving ICC in 2019

Even if the Marcos administration already clarified that it would not be rejoining the Rome Statute of the ICC, the Philippines still engages and submits responses to the ICC in what Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said is done “out of respect” and “not out of compliance.”

RELATED: Facing UN human rights panel, Remulla ‘draws the line’ vs ‘external conference’ of ICC

The US report also noted that the state’s human rights bodies — such as the Commission on Human Rights — has local village presence through human rights action centers, but they pointed out that “it nonetheless lacked sufficient resources to investigate and follow up on all cases presented to its regional and subregional offices.”

It also pointed out criticisms against the Presidential Human Rights Committee, such as its “limited ability to influence human rights policy.”

Amnesty International calls out ‘red-tagging’ practices

Meanwhile, Amnesty International renewed its call to the Marcos government to stop branding groups and individuals critical of government action or inaction, or even development workers, as “communists and terrorists.”

“Red-tagging has continued under the Marcos administration, despite repeated calls from UN member states to end it during a review of the Philippines’ human rights record in November 2022,” their statement read.

Among the government agencies the watchdog called out was the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The organization noted that the NTF-ELCAC recently urged the House of Representatives to junk a bill that would protect human rights defenders. NTF-ELCAC claimed that the legislation would lead to the establishment of a committee of “communist terrorist groups.”

READ: Lagman: NTF-ELCAC attack on rights defenders protection bill is best argument for it

Amnesty International also called out Vice President Sara Duterte, concurrently education chief, for dismissing the supposed week-long strike of jeepney drivers as a “communist-inspired” activity. The strike was the drivers’ protest to the government’s jeepney phaseout program, which they argued could lead many drivers into debt.

“The government should ensure adequate protection for those who have been red-tagged and bring those responsible for threats and attacks to justice in fair trials,” the organization said.

“The Marcos administration should also publicly instruct government officials, particularly from the NTF-ELCAC, to end the harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and activists simply for exercising their rights or carrying out human rights work.” — Kaycee Valmonte

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