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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government
MANILA: Philippine human rights groups on Friday welcomed a European Parliament resolution denouncing extrajudicial killings and abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
The document, adopted on Thursday, called for an “independent international investigation” into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016, when Duterte took office.
It urged EU member states to support the resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan described the resolution as a “welcome step toward reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”
The group also called on the international community to continue to stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines and the Filipino people “who suffer in this worsening crisis of political repression and state violence under this increasingly tyrannical regime.”
The European Parliament condemned extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which according to official figures has led to around 6,000 suspected drug offenders being killed by security forces. Rights groups, however, suggest the death toll may be much higher.
European lawmakers also urged Philippine authorities to renew the broadcast license of the country’s TV giant ABS-CBN and for charges to be dropped against acclaimed journalist and CEO of the Rappler news website, Maria Ressa, and detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
In addition, the European Parliament expressed “serious concern” over the new Anti-Terrorism Act enacted in July, which criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.”
It also granted the president power to create an anti-terrorism council that could tag individuals and groups as terrorists, allow authorities to make detentions without charge, and wiretapping.
Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said she hoped the EU resolution would “enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines.”
She added: “The sham drug war has continued to kill the poor with impunity while human rights defenders face vilification, violence, and death for their work in exposing these human rights violations even in the middle of a pandemic (COVID-19).
“Domestic mechanisms have been ineffective and there has been outright failure in bringing the perpetrators of these gruesome crimes to justice. These attacks cannot continue, and the European Parliament’s resolution is a strong statement from the international community that there would be consequences for these abuses.”
EU lawmakers also called on the European Commission to suspend the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which provides tariff perks for Filipino goods, if there was no “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities.”
In response to the resolution, Filipino Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said: “We are able to explain objectively the Philippines side on issues that are raised and we don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn,” adding that the scheme was helping the country address poverty.
The president’s office, Malacanang Palace, said in a statement that the government was in talks with the UN on a framework to support national efforts to “uphold the human rights-based approach in governance.”
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