Groups alarmed over exclusion of human rights in Marcos SONA

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 27 2022 05:25 PM

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MANILA — Rights groups are concerned over the exclusion of human rights violations in the previous administration during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address.

According to Carlos Conde, senior researcher for Asia at Human Rights Watch, Marcos not mentioning the human rights situation in the Philippines did not come as a surprise.

"We sort of anticipated that. We knew that human rights is not on top of his agenda," he told ANC Wednesday.

"But as human rights advocates, we need to press on these issues hoping that he will at least take a look at them but unfortunately he didn’t.

"So, that SONA was... not so much what he said but what was left unsaid," he added.

During the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, thousands of people were killed in the government's campaign against illegal drugs. 

Dozens of lawyers, journalists, and rights defenders were also killed in the past 6 years while critics and other groups were subjected to red-tagging.

Conde said the number one issue that the Marcos administration faces is accountability.

"To us, this human rights catastrophe that we've seen the Philippines the past 6 years, this is not something Mr. Bongbong can just ignore or wash away," he said.

"This is something that should be front and center in this administration because again, after all those violence that we've seen in the past 6 years, we expect accountability now.

"That is in his court, that is something that he is in a position to do as President," he added.

In a statement, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates said Marcos' silence on the matter "does not bode well for victims as well as for participatory governance in this country."

For Karapatan, this means "no significant shifts in the draconian policies of the previous Duterte administration." 

The group warned of a "more threatening environment that encourages further closing of democratic spaces."

In his maiden SONA, Marcos spoke for 74 minutes without mentioning human rights, corruption, or peace talks with militant groups. 

Instead, the 64-year-old namesake son of the country's late dictator focused on the economy, clean energy, agriculture, and helping poor Filipinos.

Marcos vowed to slash poverty, rein in soaring food prices and boost renewable energy, as he unveiled an ambitious blueprint for his 6-year term. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse