MANILA, Philippines – Various groups marked International Human Rights Day on Friday, December 10, with a renewed call to reject President Rodrigo Duterte’s “brand of governance” in the May 2022 elections.
In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity (iDefend) said Duterte’s governance “has violated every facet of our basic freedoms,” and further worsened “the people’s suffering” as the country faces a global pandemic.
“The 2022 elections spells a crucial juncture in our nation’s history where we stand at the precipice of a total collapse of our democratic system, unless a government that respects human rights and a leadership which puts a premium on human dignity and social justice, is elected,” the group said in a statement.
“It is time to raise the human rights agenda in this election, an agenda that ensures a governance that is democratic, inclusive, accountable and compassionate, and demands a leadership with courage, integrity, and competence to finally see us through one the most challenging times of our lives,” it added.
Former senator Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is gunning for president. His running mate is Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said that the country “cannot let another six years of the same deadly campaigns to continue,” especially under the rule of Duterte-aligned aspirants.
“The Filipino people have suffered six years of state terror, violence, and repression,” she said in a statement.
“Today, we are called not only to vote for candidates and leaders that would uphold our rights: We are called as a people to stand for our hard-won rights and freedom, and to resist tyranny and dictatorship,” Palabay added.
The Duterte administration has been criticized at home and abroad for its human rights violations, especially in his vaunted “war on drugs” which has led to 6,215 deaths in police operations alone as of October 31. Groups estimate the number to reach 30,000 to include those killed vigilante-style.
Rights group Karapatan monitored documented at least 421 activists and human rights defenders killed while 1,138 have been arrested and detained under the Duterte administration, as of August 2021. (READ: Prelude to 2022? Thousands of grassroots organizers arrested, hundreds killed)
Hold Duterte accountable
Groups Hustisya and Desaparecidos, meanwhile, called for accountability for the prevailing culture of impunity that has victimized ordinary citizens, activists, and even journalists, among others.
“We have seen how the already dismal state of human rights further plummeted under the bloody reign of Rodrigo Duterte,” said Desaparecidos national chairperson Erlinda Cadapan.
“He must be accountable for all the gross human rights violations that were committed during his tyrannical regime,” she added.
Duterte’s war on drugs is facing intense scrutiny, especially as the International Criminal Court (ICC) greenlit a formal investigation into the killings in the drug war killings and also those carried out of the so-called Davao Death Squad in Davao City when Rodrigo Duterte was mayor. (READ: Killing as state policy: 10 things the ICC says about Duterte’s drug war)
Kapatid, a group advocating political prisoners’ rights, said it seeks to dialogue with “compassionate officials,” adding that the government would benefit from talking to victims of violations.
“The government should heed the message of UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet that at the heart of human rights lie the principles of equality and non-discrimination, that we are all human, all equal,” said Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim.
In October, Bachelet urged the Philippine government to be more inclusive in its supposed efforts to investigate state violations, particularly in its drug war probe. Opening the doors to the Commission on Human Rights and other stakeholders, she said, would “ensure an effective and victim-centered process.”
While the Department of Justice’s probe has pointed out lapses in protocols in the conduct of drug war, no cases had been filed against erring cops so far.
“Napatay mo ang aming mga mahal sa buhay ngunit hinding hindi ang aming paninindigan at prinsipyo ng paglaban para sa aming mga karapatan tungo sa pagkamit ng tunay na hustisya para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay,” said Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a group composed of families of drug war victims.
(You killed our loved ones but never our conviction and principle to fight for our rights so we can get justice for them.) – Rappler.com