UNHRC: Philippines won’t stop ‘red-tagging’

Pia Lee-Brago, Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
UNHRC: Philippines won�t stop �red-tagging�
This file photo shows a protester holding a placard that says, "Uphold human rights."
The STAR / KJ Rosales, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ refusal to accept the United Nations recommendation to end the practice of “red-tagging” indicated the lack of commitment by the government to stop the practice, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said.

In plenary session, the Human Rights Council adopted on Monday the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on the Philippines’ human rights record.

The report highlighted views and recommendations on unresolved human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detention, torture and other forms of human rights violations.

“The government did not accept recommendations to end the practice of red-tagging, indicating a lack of commitment by the government to end this practice, which caused significant harm to human rights defenders,” UNHRC said.

Many UN member-states have voiced concern over red-tagging, anti-terrorism efforts not conforming to human rights standards and attacks on journalists and human rights defenders.

The council said 215 of the 289 recommendations made by UN member-states were accepted by the Philippines and 74 were noted. Of the 215, 200 were accepted two days after the review. An additional 15 recommendations were adopted following an open consultative process with the participation of the Commission on Human Rights.

The recommendations accepted included relevant commitments related to the protection of migrant workers, human rights-based approaches to drugs, accountability of perpetrators of human rights violation, including in the context of anti-drug operations.

But some countries that spoke during the review of the Philippines’ human rights record said facts on the ground stood in direct contrast to the recommendations, adding that “little had been done to systematically investigate the wide-spread human rights violations that had been committed.” They also noted the continued killings of suspected drug offenders.

The Philippine UPR Watch said the Marcos administration accepted over 90 recommendations on civil and political rights but systematically refused to support the most critical recommendations for genuinely improving the human rights situation – taking these as merely noted.

These included the crucial recommendations to re-accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to issue standing invitations to UN special procedures, to end the so-called war on drugs and to take various urgent measures to uphold civil and political rights.

The government spurned dozens of important recommendations: to end extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detention, torture, red-tagging and attacks on media freedom; to protect journalists and human rights defenders; to review the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Anti-Terrorism Law and other abusive mechanisms and revise these and to conduct thorough and impartial investigations towards accountability and ending impunity.

According to the Philippine UPR report, the government ignored calls to stop red-tagging “to self-servingly protect state and state-sponsored perpetrators of gross human rights violations, also shown by its dismal record of three prosecutions and convictions for drug-related extrajudicial killings since 2016.”

In its latest annual country report on human rights practices released last week, the US State Department said “red-tagging” continued under the Marcos administration, which has an “unclear” position on the practice that is intended to silence criticism of the government.


The Council also noted concerns over reported cases of targeted harassment and extrajudicial killings of lawyers in the Philippines.

The government, it said, is being urged to uphold the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and take immediate measures to guarantee the full independence of lawyers and their effective protection against any form of undue interference in their work.

In oral statement at the ongoing 52nd Regular Session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, human rights group Karapatan belied assertions by the Marcos administration that the human rights situation in the country has improved.

“Government policies on the counterinsurgency and drug war have not been rescinded, resulting in continuing extrajudicial killings, including those of human rights defenders,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“We renew our call to the UNHR Council for an independent investigation into the cases of extrajudicial killings and other grave rights violations in the Philippines,” Palabay added.

She said government task forces or panels created to look into reports of human rights violations failed to investigate and successfully prosecute perpetrators and senior government officials who ordered the killings.

She added the joint program the government entered into with the UN also lacks the necessary accountability tools that can deliver justice to the victims.

Instead, Palabay said the Marcos government continues with the persecution and criminalization of human rights defenders, political dissenters, even journalists.

Palabay said the number of political prisoners have risen while members of many community organizations face intimidation and threats of arrests and abduction.

No US assistance

Meanwhile, a bill has been reintroduced in the US congress seeking to block assistance to Philippine security forces until those in the police and military who are responsible for human rights violations are held accountable.

US Representative Susan Wild (Pennsylvania, 7th District) refiled earlier this month the Philippine Human Rights Act that would condition all US security assistance to the Philippines based on respect for human rights standards.

Wild said the bill was reintroduced on the second anniversary of the targeted assassinations of Filipino labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion and eight other activists—known in the Philippines as “Bloody Sunday.”

Leading human rights organizations reported as many as 30,000 extrajudicial killings have occurred in the Philippines since former President Rodrigo Duterte launched his violent “war on drugs” following his election in 2016.

“I’m proud to announce that, today, I am reintroducing the Philippine Human Rights Act in response to the lack of justice and accountability for the extrajudicial killings on March 7, 2021, and countless more human rights violations against labor organizers, dissidents, journalists, political opposition leaders, clergy members, and others,” Wild said in a statement.

“By blocking assistance to Philippine security forces until such time as human rights standards are met, this bill sends a clear signal: respect for human rights and dignity should be the foundation of US foreign policy, not a talking point that we selectively use when it’s politically convenient,” she said.

“It is past time the US take action and block assistance to Philippine security forces until human rights standards are met and there is accountability for the horrifying extrajudicial killings and grave human rights violations that we have witnessed over the last several years,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Illinois-9th District) said.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with