Rights group refutes PH govt’s claim to UN chief

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2019 12:48 PM

MANILA – Rights group Karapatan on Tuesday refuted the Philippine government’s claim to the United Nations (UN) chief that it is operating unlawfully and that its reports on the human rights situation in the country are “unsubstantiated.”

In an email to the media, Karapatan presented a certificate from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing that it remains registered as a non-government and non-profit organization.

The group also showed a verification slip to prove that it has been complying with reportorial requirements.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in his 2019 report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), cited the Philippine government’s response to allegations of reprisals against those who work with the world body.

Guterres had previously reported that members of Karapatan were subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation and smear campaigns. Some government officials also reportedly called for a stop to its funding.

In response to the allegations, the Philippine government, on June 21, told the UN chief that Karapatan’s registration has been revoked, which the rights group vehemently denied.

“Unfounded information and allegations, including fake news that Karapatan has been unlawfully operating and has unsubstantiated reports, have been disseminated at the UN and among European Union member states undermining the right of Filipino defenders to seek the attention of the UNHRC and the international community on reports of rights violations in the country,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Palabay is in Geneva for the 42nd UN Human Rights Council.

She also defended her organization from the Philippine government’s claim that its reports on the human rights situation in the country are “unsubstantiated.”

“The information and data in our reports came from various communities, verified by the victims themselves and our human rights workers. Unlike the government, we do not manipulate data and accounts of rights violations,” she said.

Palabay criticized the Philippine government for spreading misinformation.

“Resorting to misinformation and the thousand and one ways by which government officials deny and cover-up these violations in domestic mechanisms are [the] very reasons why we have brought these cases and documentation to international human rights bodies," she said.

"You cannot get a rational, sane and logical response of the Duterte government on any and all cases of rights violations in the Philippines because it is covering up its crimes and it is evading accountability."

Karapatan is among the organizations who sent a communication to the International Criminal Court urging the international body to look into human rights abuses under the country’s war on drugs.

It also lobbied for the passage of the Iceland-led UN HRC resolution passed in July which called for a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, a resolution which the Philippine government rejected.

In response, Malacañang suspended negotiations on loans and grants from countries which backed the UNHRC resolution.

“Its allergic reaction to independent scrutiny and probes is proof enough that it can be so callous and defensive when its crimes are exposed. Look at how it reacts to the UNHRC resolution; its aversion to a simple report-making process of the international body has all the indications of guilt,” Palabay said of the Philippine government’s response.

Karapatan welcomed the UN Secretary General’s report, which also took note of alleged reprisals against the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, detained Sen. Leila de Lima, a staunch administration critic, and other indigenous peoples and human rights defenders.

“We call on the UN Secretary General and Human Rights Council to continue to call out States, including the Philippines, to refrain from intimidating and promoting acts of reprisals on human rights defenders who access UN human rights mechanisms," Palabay said.

"We challenge the Philippine government, to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in accordance to the resolution adopted during the 41st session and pave the way for an independent report on the human rights situation in the Philippines."