On September 8, 2023, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signed an agreement for a strategic partnership between the two countries. As part of the bilateral relations, various collaborations in several fields–including protection and security, development, and education–should be strengthened in light of China’s growing regional influence. Prior to the meeting, President Marcos thanked the Australian government for its continued support on the territorial dispute between the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea.
Human rights were not given any relevance in the meeting between the two governments. In advance, Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote to the Australian Prime Minister to draw attention to the devastating state of human rights in the Philippines, particularly with respect to the continuing number of drug-related extrajudicial killings in connection with the so-called “war on drugs.” In it, HRW also called on the Australian government to urge President Marcos, among others, to publicly declare an end to the “war on drugs.” In addition, with a view to a possible extension of the UN Joint Programme on Human Rights (UNJP), Australia should support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council mandating the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct an assessment of the UNJP to determine its effectiveness and areas for improvement.
HRW’s Carlos Conde also sharply criticized the European Commission for its stance on the problematic human rights situation in the Philippines during a meeting of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights in Brussels on September 7, 2023. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in her meeting with President Marcos last July and August, respectively, failed to issue clear demands to the Philippine government regarding the ongoing human rights violations in the country–especially if trade relations between the EU and the Philippines are to be tied closer. Conde stressed in his oral statement that trade relations between the EU and the Philippines should depend on the respect for human rights.
Photo © Christian Lue on Unsplash