Research, education and advocacy group IBON Foundation joins civil society organizations in welcoming the initial findings, insights and recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) Irene Khan on the current state of freedom of opinion and expression in the Philippines. We thank Ms. Khan for meeting human rights defenders, journalists, academics and civil society to be able to form a true picture of the situation.
The UN special rapporteur was clearly able to see through the staged and sanitized government narrative meant to hide how violations under the previous Duterte government are continuing under the Marcos Jr administration. The current administration adopts a human rights-friendly posture but Ms. Khan reminded how the Philippines is still the 8th worst in the world in terms of impunity.
The government sought to preempt the UNSR’s recommendation to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which echoed the same recommendation already made by the UN special rapporteur on climate change Dr Ian Fry. In an earlier press briefing, the government said the NTF-ELCAC will “transition into” the National Task Force on Unity, Peace and Development.
This name-change will be a superficial change to deflect criticism for state-sponsored human rights violations and much more substantial steps are needed. The Marcos Jr government can start with publicly acknowledging and condemning red-tagging then ensuring accountability, as Ms Khan specifically suggested. The most convincing step, however, is to dismantle the state’s repressive legal infrastructure starting with rescinding the executive order creating the NTF-ELCAC all the way to repealing the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act.
We join other people’s organizations, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders looking forward to the UNSR’s final report. This is anticipated to provide further expert evaluation of the Philippine human rights situation, specifically in terms of freedom of opinion and expression, to aid civil society’s work to realize the people’s civil, political and socio economic rights. We will continue to engage the office of UNSR Irene Khan. Towards and beyond the report’s release we vow to continue raising issues of the people towards action for needed change.###