Group vows to tighten monitoring of human rights violations

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

HUMAN rights groups on Monday vowed to tighten monitoring of human rights violations in the country after President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s first year in office and amid his second address to Congress.

In a statement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said the international community should keep a close eye on the continuing human rights violations under the government.

“The war on the poor launched by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Jr. through alleged police anti-drug operations continues under Marcos despite the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the officials who did this as mass murderers,” coalition Chairman Peter Murphy said.

“The international community cannot allow this brazen impunity to continue.”

Presidential Communications Office chief Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil did not immediately reply to a Viber message seeking comment.

The Hague-based tribunal on July 18 rejected a Philippine appeal to suspend its probe of Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, paving the way for its prosecutor to later indict and order the arrest of local officials who aided the campaign.

It reopened its probe in January of Mr. Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, saying it was not satisfied with government efforts to probe human rights abuses.

Last week, Mr. Marcos Jr. said it would no longer engage with the ICC after the decision.

“We will not cooperate with them in any way, shape, or form,” he told reporters. “We continue to defend the sovereignty of the Philippines and continue to question the jurisdiction of the ICC in their investigations here in the Philippines.

Last year, Mr. Marcos said the Philippines would not rejoin the ICC, which political experts said is meant to protect his predecessor from prosecution.

The government estimates that at least 6,117 suspected drug dealers were killed in police operations. Human rights groups say as many as 30,000 suspects died.

The International Coalition also urged the government to ensure the right to freedom of expression and oppose censorship and attacks on journalists.

The Philippines placed 132nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index released on May 3. It was the country’s best ranking in six years.

The country remained the seventh worst country in the world where journalist killers get away with murder, the New York-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists said in November.

The global watchdog said at least 85 Filipino journalists were killed between 1992 and 2022, 14 cases of which were still unsolved.

The Philippines has accepted 200 recommendations from the United Nations Human Rights Council, including investigating extralegal killings and protecting journalists and activists.

Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto said state forces continue to abuse the justice system by filing trumped-up charges against government critics and activists

“This practice stifles the voices of those who dare to challenge oppressive systems and undermines the very principles of democracy and freedom that our nation aspires to uphold,” it said in a statement.

“Despite the change in leadership, it is disheartening to witness the continuation of a grave violation of human rights that has plagued our nation for far too long.”

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla earlier said the government does not sanction attacks, harassment or intimidation of activists and journalists.

Human rights group Karapatan said the Marcos government has failed to put in place enough accountability measures during his first term in office, citing the possibility of using the newly enacted P500-billion Maharlika Investment Fund for corruption.

Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters on July 21 the government was looking for candidates to run the Maharlika Investment Corp., which will manage the country›s first sovereign wealth fund.

ICHRP said the public would be deprived of basic social services such as education, healthcare and housing if the fund is abused and goes unchecked. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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