Philippines: UN experts urge government to put an immediate halt to human rights violations

published 3 August 2017 updated 18 August 2017

Education International reiterates its call for action and great concerns, after UN experts declared that the “Philippines needs urgent action to reverse spiraling rights violations”.

The Government of the Philippines must urgently address growing reports of human rights violations, including murder, threats against indigenous peoples and the summary execution of children, a group of United Nations experts said on 31 July.

“Attacks are spiraling against many groups in society and we are making an urgent appeal for Government action,” they stressed in a joint call for action.

“Severe, multiple human rights violations,” and “children are not being spared”

“We are witnessing severe, multiple human rights violations, especially against indigenous peoples and human rights defenders,” they deplored. “Children are not being spared and continue to be at high risk in a climate of prevailing violence”.

Shocked by the increasing levels of violence, killings, intimidation and harassment being suffered by human rights defenders – including those protecting indigenous peoples – trade union organisers, farmers and their family members, the experts added that “allegations of summary executions, including of children, are also on the rise. All these cases must be investigated thoroughly and perpetrators should be brought to justice.”

They also highlighted that some of those being attacked were defending the rights of Lumad indigenous peoples, who are reported to have suffered particularly severe threats on the island of Mindanao, often with the acquiescence or direct support of the security forces, while defending their ancestral land against businesses.

Numerous killings and extra-judicial executions of villagers, farmers and human rights defenders working with them have been reliably reported, the experts noted.

They urged the Government to ensure effective protection of individuals and groups who may be subject to extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions, or those who received death threats, concluding that it “must also prevent incitement to violence or killings against indigenous communities, human rights defenders and farmers.”

EI’s solidarity action

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in a televised news conference on 24 July, threatened to bomb Lumad schools on Mindanao “who teach children to rebel against the government”.

On 28 July, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)-Philippines, affiliated to Education International (EI), joined the press conference of the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network to denounce this statement of President Duterte. The ACT National Chairperson Benjamin Valbuena then shared the EI solidarity actions with Filipino students, teachers, and Indigenous peoples, and called on Filipino public authorities to end attacks against indigenous teachers, students and schools.

In a letter to President Duterte, EI firmly protests against his public call for airstrikes against Lumad schools. It also invites the Filipino Government to endorse the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, an intergovernmental instrument to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from attacks.

In addition, through its urgent action appeal dated 26 July, EI urged all its member organisations to take immediate action, for example:

·         Send a protest letter to President Rodrigo Duterte and relevant authorities in the Philippines (see model letter);

·         Contact national governments as well as the diplomatic representation of the Philippines in their country, requesting a dialogue on these issues with the Filipino authorities;

·         Release public statements condemning the attacks against the Lumad education communities in Mindanao; and give visibility to this situation on social media.