CHR to Malacañang: Stop attacks on human rights defenders

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday, March 14, urged the Philippine government to stop its attacks on human rights bodies and defenders.

In a statement on Tuesday, the CHR also called on the government to show its "sincere commitment" to transparency by allowing an "unhampered" probe into the drug war killings.

“Rather than attacking human rights bodies and human rights defenders, we urge the government to display sincere commitment to transparency and the rule of law by allowing unhampered investigations to take place,” the commission said.

The CHR issued the statetment after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque blasted United Nations (UN) human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein for saying that President Rodrigo Duterte needs "psychiatric evaluation."

Zeid was standing up for his colleagues – UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, who the government wants declared as a terrorist; and UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard, who has been on the receiving end of Duterte's tirades.

On February 21, the DOJ filed a petition before the Manila Regional Trial Court seeking to tag as terrorists hundreds of people, including human rights workers and a United Nations special rapporteur. 

The DOJ sought to tag 649 individuals as “terrorists” under the Human Security Act. The petition was filed months after the government terminated its peace negotiations with communist rebels. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte’s romance with the Reds)

Aside from members and alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), the list also includes several human rights workers such as Corpuz, Karapatan national executive committee member Elisa Tita Lubi, and Jose Molintas, former Asia representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), among others. 

Seen as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s move against dissent, critics tag the list as a “government hit list” which could further endanger the lives of human rights workers. 

The CHR urged the Philippine government to delist Corpuz  "in order that she may remain unhindered in performing her mandate here in the Philippines and elsewhere she may be called upon to undertake her investigations.” (READ: What are the roles of United Nations special rapporteurs?)

Corpuz was appointed as a UN expert in 2014 and served as former chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. She was listed in the DOJ petition as an alleged member of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC). 

“The UN Human Rights Special Procedures, which includes the special rapporteurs, are entitled to immunities and protection as experts of the UN system,” CHR said. ”The Philippines has a particular duty to ensure their safety and security.” –

Jodesz Gavilan

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.