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Women, rights NGOs welcome Bachelet’s report on the Philippines, call for an independent investigation on PH rights situation

June 30, 2020

QUEZON CITY – As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet delivers her report to the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council today, June 30, at around 4pm (Manila time), Karapatan, Tanggol Bayi and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), through a written statement to the UN HRC, called on the Council to adopt a resolution providing for the independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“It is increasingly more imperative for the UN Human Rights Council to take a decisive and immediate step towards a mechanism to conduct an independent investigation on the human rights situation in the Philippines, with the fast-spiralling climate of impunity in the country. With the heavy-handed restrictions on civil liberties during the COVID-19 lockdown, looming enactment of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, and the relentless assault on democratic rights in the Philippines,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

The three organisations welcomed the report of High Commissioner Bachelet and sought the attention of the HRC “to the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines amid the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This situation described in the report has been aggravated, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A new Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was recently passed in Congress, after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the proposed measure as urgent...The act contains provisions that dangerously infringe on people’s democratic rights and civil liberties such as the rights of human rights defenders, freedom of expression, assembly, and association; right to due process and to privacy; as well as the right against illegal and arbitrary detention, torture, to cruel and degrading treatment. Civil society organisations and freedom of expression advocates view its enactment as one that will seal the de facto martial law situation in the country,” the three organisations additionally stated in their written statement.

They cited reports on gender-based violence during the government-imposed lockdown, on “overcrowded hospitals, shortage of medical personnel and equipment, and exorbitant hospital fees driven by privatisation, reproductive and basic health care services” which, they said, are “becoming less accessible to women and their families,” they added.

Misun Woo, APWLD Regional Coordinator, said that workers, including women workers in the informal sectors, are most affected by the crisis. “Workers in economic zones in the Philippines are forced to work, without paid leaves or day-offs, risking workers’ health and disregarding labor rights,” she stated. Thousands of migrant workers are also displaced during the crisis, but are given inadequate cash subsidies.

“Thus, we welcome the report of Ms. Bachelet on the widespread human rights violations in the Philippines as well as her observations on the failure of domestic mechanisms to ensure accountability. Her report amplifies the call for justice and accountability, with the shrinking democratic and civic space in the Philippines,” they said.

Karapatan is a convening organisation of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, a network of faith-based and human rights groups engaging in the UN and other international rights mechanisms.