De Lima calls for ‘urgent actions’ vs impunity for PH human rights abuses

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has called on the international community to take “urgent actions” to end impunity for human rights violations in the Philippines, notably for the Duterte administration-sponsored all-out war on illegal drugs.

In her message at the side events of the 39th United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Session in Geneva, Switzerland, De Lima said it is high time for the UNHRC and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to end impunity in the Philippines.

“It is imperative for the ICC and relevant UN bodies and mechanisms to work and work urgently not only to frustrate Duterte’s plans but more importantly and ultimately to shrink the space for impunity in the Philippines,” she said.

Her message entitled “Shattering the Consensus of Silence: Let’s Take Urgent Actions Against Impunity in the Philippines” was read at the sideline of the 39th session of UNHRC held at Geneva, Switzerland last Sept. 13.

According to the Senator, police and vigilantes, acting upon President Duterte’s instructions, instigations and incitements, have killed more than 20,000 suspected drug offenders under his administration’s gruesome war on drugs.

“And there is no sign that the killings will ever stop as Duterte has even vowed in his recent State of the Nation Address in July that his drug war would remain relentless and chilling as on the day it began,” she said.

“Thus, as high officials and agents of government themselves are involved in this spate of killings and attacks against our people, can we honestly expect the wheels of justice to turn,?” she added.

The former justice secretary said she hopes that UNHRC would pass a resolution condemning the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and create an independent fact-fact-finding mission to ferret out the truth and identify accountabilities.

She also called on the ICC which has begun its preliminary examination to expedite its proceedings on the human rights situation in the country, even if the government has decided to unilaterally withdraw from its membership to ICC.

“More than the appeal to actions from governments and inter-government bodies, there is a cogency in the call for international solidarity and mobilization of public support to uphold, defend and protect human rights in the Philippines,” she said.

“We have to move – move with utmost urgency and in solidarity with each other. With political leaders themselves demonizing their own people and instigating human rights violations, the need for all of us to stand together and fight for the basic values of human dignity and equality of everyone everywhere has now become absolutely urgent,” she added.

In the Philippines where the rule of law is undermined and subverted by power-hungry government officials, De Lima noted the Filipinos need to take a united stand against human right abuses and depend on each other, to the international community, and to various instruments of global justice.

“Where do a brutalized people go when domestic legal systems fail to provide them redress and remedy? Where can they turn to when, at home, they are turned away from the courts of justice and the corridors of power?,” she said.

“Where do the Filipinos go now? Expectedly, we have to turn to those avenues which seem available and appear viable to us: to each other, to the international community, and to the various instruments of global justice,” she added.

De Lima said an independent prosecution of cases at the domestic level is greatly jeopardized by the incessant threats of Duterte and his allies against the independence of the judiciary, and the politically-motivated ouster of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

As if those were not enough, De Lima mentioned how Duterte has threatened and verbally attacked the UN High Commissioner, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers for expressing their serious concerns over the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“Duterte’s goal is obvious: to discredit and block off international organs and mandate holders, who may have the will and platform to determine the truth and exact accountability from him and other masterminds, and all those who perpetrate the killings and other gross human rights violations in the Philippines,” she explained.

Last Sept. 5, De Lima sent a letter to the UNHRC member-states urging them to send an independent fact-finding mission to the Philippines to investigate the extrajudicial killings under the government-sponsored all-out war on drugs.

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