‘Conduct independent probe on killings of human rights advocates,’ CHR urges

Published September 1, 2020, 1:10 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) hopes that the government would heed calls made by different organizations for the conduct of an independent and transparent probe into the killings, violence, and threats made against human rights workers and advocates in the country.

Commission on Human Rights (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

This statement came on the heels of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ call for an independent investigation following the deaths of rights activist Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City and Anakpawis chairman and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Randall Echanis in Quezon City.

“CHR hopes that the government heed expediently this repeated call with concrete steps that would ascertain accountability and justice while also implementing definitive actions to prevent any further attacks and loss of life,” said CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia.

She added that the CHR continues to denounce the practice of red-tagging activists and labelling them as terrorists, because these make them susceptible to attacks and threats. As a result, their lives and security are often put at risk.

“Human rights advocacy aims for the common good by reminding the government of their duty to fulfill their sworn obligation to the country,” she said. “Human rights defenders should not be painted as destabilizers for calling for the protection and promotion of the rights of all especially the vulnerable sectors.

The CHR has noted that an investigation is already being conducted on the recent killings, and it will continue to offer its support to the government especially when it comes to the protection of human rights workers.

“We hope that the government (would) demonstrate its fidelity to human rights standards by being receptive to recommendations from independent human rights bodies and organizations,” said de Guia.

Last June, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made a report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Her report highlighted the widespread human rights violations in the country, which included the systematic killing of thousands of drug suspects and the threats and harassment against people who engage in human rights advocacy and activism.

The UN report stated that the country’s war against illegal drugs, which started in 2016, has claimed the lives of at least 8,663 individuals. Other estimates have pegged the actual number is actually three times the reported number.

The UN Human Rights Office also documented at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists, and trade unionists who have been killed from 2015 to 2019. From thus large number of slay victims, there has only one conviction for the death of a drug suspect in a police operation since 2016.