MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is set to launch a national inquiry into the situation of human rights defenders in the Philippines amid rising number of deaths and harassment allegedly perpetrated by state agents.
In a statement, CHR Commissioner Roberto Cadiz said the inquiry was in response to the complaints and petitions filed by various human rights organizations that detailed allegations of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and threats. (READ: Human rights defenders also killed under Duterte administration)
"The commission especially notes serious allegations concerning government attempts to silence and intimidate human rights defenders through the use of the judicial system, including the filing of criminal cases based on fabricated charges of terrorism, sedition, and other crimes against the security of the state," he said.
Public hearings are scheduled to start on September 9 until September 13.
The situation of human rights and its defenders has been on a downward spiral. Since 2001, rights group Karapatan recorded at least 613 defenders killed. Front Line Defenders reported said that the Philippines is among the 6 countries that accounted for 80% of the deaths of defenders worldwide.
The "explicit nature" of President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks on the rule of law, climate of fear, and the demonization of the concept of human rights, lead to what critics call the “worst human rights crisis" the Philippines has seen post-Martial Law. (READ: Human rights: How to deal with Duterte, the biggest challenge?)
In December 2018, the United Nations named the Philippines as one of the countries whose governments subject human rights defenders and activists to “an alarming and shameful level of harsh reprisals and intimidation.” (READ: Duterte's war on dissent)
Cadiz said that the commission hopes to present recommendations "for respecting human rights, upholding the rule of law, and ensuring a vibrant democracy" to the government and other relevant sectors by the end of the inquiry.
"The CHR hopes that the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General, and the Presidential Human Rights Committee will participate in the public hearings," he said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.