Calls for the new government to prioritize human rights

On January 13, 2022, the international human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released its annual World Report for 2021. In regard to the Philippines the report highlights the ongoing so-called war on drugs, the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act, red-tagging, and attacks against journalists, lawyers, and activists. With elections coming up in May 2022, Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director, stresses the need for the new government to prioritize the protection of human rights. Adams further adds that presidential candidates “should also announce their willingness to fully cooperate with the ICC investigation.”

Currently, the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act (HB 15) is pending in the Senate after the Philippine House of Representatives has approved it. The Observatory (OMCT-FIDH), a partner program of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), appeals to the Senate to pass the bill. With the same call, Amnesty International emphasized the urgency in this regard: “This bill is sorely needed as an answer to the Duterte administration’s intense crackdown on activists and any other person who speaks critically of its policies. […] If enacted into law, this will also provide some measure of protection for activists and other human rights workers until the Anti-Terror Law is amended.”

Senator Leila de Lima, who previously co-authored a similar bill in 2019, expresses her pessimism, saying it is “almost certain that President Rodrigo Duterte will veto it.” By signing the 2022 national budget, Duterte already vetoed the establishment of a Human Rights Institute by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The institute was supposed to serve research, education, public information, and promotion of human rights.

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