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Independent int’l investigation of PH rights situation shows damning evidence of widespread impunity, failure of justice system

July 6, 2021

MANILA – INVESTIGATE PH provides more evidence of the persistent failure of the justice system in the Philippines. Its Second Report, released today, documents intensifying human rights violations perpetrated by state agents, in line with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s security policies and violent pronouncements that were adopted as official orders. The report includes an important series of recommendations, including a clear call for a United Nations-led probe on the human rights violations of the Duterte administration.

INVESTIGATE PH is the popular name of the Independent International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines, which is led by ‘High Commissioners’ or prominent personalities of the international community. Its recent report is the second in a series of three reports, and builds on the findings of the first report launched in March 2021, which picked up from and further substantiated the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights’ June 2020 report on the Philippine rights situation.

The Second Report spotlights three aspects of state terror in the Philippines, namely the War against the Poor (under the guise of the “war on drugs”), the War on Dissent, and the War against the Moro People. It is an important contribution to a growing body of evidence of state-perpetrated human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines that would help facilitate international accountability mechanisms.

According to Atty. Suzanne Adely, co-chair of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild in the US and one of the High Commissioners leading the investigation, “State policies, including Executive Order 70 or the whole-of-nation approach to counterinsurgency program and the 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act have emboldened both the police and military to massacre the poor and marginalised, as well as those who are fighting for the rights of these communities, including activists and advocates of peasant and Indigenous People’s rights. Moreover, the government’s capture of domestic redress and accountability mechanisms continue to fail victims.” The report shows that the Philippine National Police (PNP) routinely covers up the circumstances surrounding killings in ‘anti-drug operations’, intimidates potential witnesses, and obstructs investigations by victims’ families, civil society and even by the Commission on Human Rights.

The release of the Second Report is timely as it follows the recent request by the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) outgoing Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for an investigation on the bloody “war on drugs” of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Its launching also coincided with the ongoing 47th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The report also highlights how military action in Mindanao is perpetrating violence against and entrenching the marginalization of Moro communities. The report shows that US military aid is propping up the military operations in Mindanao as part of the US-backed “War on Terror”. These operations fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and are also causing mass displacement of Moro communities. One of the High Commissioners, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe of the US-based United Methodist Church said that, “It was difficult to hear testimony that U.S. military aid, as well as military support from other countries, is abetting human rights violations. It’s simply unacceptable.”

The report will be submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, member states of the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General, and the International Criminal Court. Rev. Michael Blair, who is also one of the High Commissioners, said, “Throughout this investigation, we have remained steadfast in our objective to realize justice for the victims of human rights violations in the Philippines. The report must go beyond evidence gathering and be a contribution to the process of accountability and an end to the injustice”.

See the report here