Group hits gov’t ahead of UN monitor’s visit

Group hits gov’t ahead of UN monitor’s visit

THE PHILIPPINES has yet to act on the recommendations made by the United Nations (UN) to address human rights issues in the country, a watchdog said on Sunday ahead of the scheduled visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Z. Khan.

“The Philippine government has disregarded, shrugged off, and rejected past recommendations done by UN special rapporteurs who have visited the country,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights network Karapatan, which was among the dozens of domestic groups that submitted reports to Ms. Khan to show the alleged “bleak and sorry state of press freedom and the right to express in the Philippines.”

On Saturday, a press task force under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s office said Ms. Khan’s visit is a “welcome opportunity to showcase the nation’s commitment to openness, transparency, and its vibrant media community highlighted by everyone’s right to freely express their opinion.

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) is set to host a welcome dinner for her that will be attended by heads and representatives of various government agencies and the media.

“The welcome dinner would serve as a platform for open dialogue and exchange of ideas, reinforcing the Philippines’ dedication to maintaining a dynamic and open environment for media and expression,” it said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said earlier that the purpose of Ms. Khan’s visit in Manila from Jan. 23 to Feb. 3 is to observe the right to freedom of expression in the country and that the Philippine government is displaying its “sincere cooperation” with such international partners as she represents.

But Karapatan is unimpressed with the government’s claim, citing extrajudicial killings that allegedly continue under the government’s anti-narcotics campaign and counterinsurgency program.

“Stop the fakery and cut the show,” Ms. Palabay said. “Integrity in cooperation with international human rights mechanisms means heeding recommendations of these international experts and bodies, consistent with a State’s obligations under human rights treaties, conventions and declarations.”

Her group underscored how the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which many claim to be designed to harass critics, is now “in full swing.”

Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human rights in the Context of Climate Change, called for the abolition of an anti-communist task force and the rescinding of the anti-terrorism law after speaking to environmental defenders and communities during his Philippine visit in November last year.

The welcome dinner for Ms. Khan will be joined by the Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI), the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), and the Office of the National Security Adviser Secretary Eduardo Año.

She is expected to meet with various stakeholders, including human rights and media organizations as well as experts and academics.

Among the agencies she’ll meet are the Justice and Local Government departments, Philippine Human Rights Committee, Anti-Terrorism Council Program Management Center, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Supreme Court, House of Representatives and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

“In response to Ms. Khan’s specific requests, numerous meetings have been arranged with key institutions, demonstrating the PTFoMS’s commitment to ensuring that her visit aligns with her mandate and objectives.”  — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza