Rights defenders urge the United Nations (UN) anew to investigate human rights violations amid worsening economic crisis

July 1, 2023

by IBON Foundation

Geneva, Switzerland — Philippine human rights defenders personally brought concerns gravely affecting the Filipino people to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and its Special Procedures mandate holders.

The organizations Center for Environmental Concerns, Coalition for People’s Right to Health, Council for Health and Development, IBON Foundation, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers trooped to the UN for the 53rd HRC meeting with UN member states scheduled from June 19-July 14.

The delegation members are all part of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Watch network and are in Geneva to report continuing rights abuses and lack of accountability amid a worsening economic crisis under the first year of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s presidency.

The groups participated in Interactive Dialogues with Special Rapporteurs reporting before the Council on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, and on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The groups also approached various Special Rapporteurs, working group members or their representatives. The human rights experts spoken to included those on enforced or involuntary disappearances, on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on independence of judges and lawyers, on climate change, on the right to food, on business and human rights, and on leprosy.

“Beyond the optics and rhetorics of the Marcos Jr. administration, we come once again to the UN to hold power to account by presenting our data and recommendations which can serve as an alternative to State-backed narratives,” said NUPL chairperson and co-head of delegation, Atty. Edre Olalia.

It is a year into the Marcos Jr. administration and three months since the Philippine government accepted selected recommendations made by UN member states at the 4th Cycle of the UPR of the country’s human rights record. Aside from stressing the lack of progress on civil and political rights violations, the delegation also raised the absence of significant measures to address deeply-rooted problems on wages and job security, precarious and hazardous work, poverty and inequality, ill health and poor services, and environmental distress and climate change.

By failing to install robust mechanisms and staunch guardrails to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights in the Philippines, those who raise dissent or dare challenge State narratives face harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, surveillance, or death.

Atty. Olalia, who is concurrently Interim President of the UN-accredited International  of Democratic Lawyers (IADL),  further explained: “The lives of countless workers, lawyers, judges, health workers, environment defenders, and development workers are senselessly taken, and basic democratic rights are continuously attacked with impunity — these fuel our resolve to tirelessly make our voices heard by the international community and to ask them to revisit the conditions that undermine human rights frameworks and enable injustice to persist.”


Atty. Edre Olalia

Chairperson, National Union of People’s Lawyers

Co-head of delegation, Philippine UPR Watch

Contact: +63 917 511-3373

Sonny Africa

Executive Director, Ibon Foundation

Co-head of delegation, Philippine UPR Watch

Contact: +63 928 505-3550