LONDON – “The UK government must do more to pressure the Duterte government to end the huge wave of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines unleashed in its so-called war on drugs, and to bring to an end martial law in the province of Mindanao” according to Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan, an eminent human rights organisation in the Philippines. It is estimated that 14,000-20,000 deaths have resulted from the “war on drugs” in the last two years.
Ms Palabay was addressing British MPs at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights (PHRG) and the Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) on Monday 5 November. She informed MPs of the numerous death threats she and other human rights defenders had received and the constant police surveillance which human rights organisations experience.
The meeting also heard the concerns of human rights activists and academics in the UK, including about British sales of surveillance technology and arms to the Duterte regime which appeared to violate rules about the export of technology to repressive regimes, widespread impunity of security forces allegedly responsible for serious violations, and violent repression in connection with conflicts over land rights.
Lloyd Russell Moyle MP, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export, argued that the UK government was not taking concerns about the situation in the Philippines seriously enough. He felt that the Philippines was a test case: if the human rights argument could not be won with the UK Government on the Philippines, then It was unlikely it would prevail in respect of other countries post-Brexit, where greater commercial interests were involved.
Those at the meeting, which was chaired by Helen Goodman MP, agreed that continued international pressure and engagement was important, and called on the UK Government to be monitored and held to account for its trade relations with, and arms sales to the Philippines. Ms. Palabay also stressed the importance of an independent investigation into human rights violations taking place there, e.g. by the International Criminal Court or the UN Human Rights Council.
Sadly, within 24 hours of the meeting in London, Benjamin Ramos, a prominent human rights lawyer on the island of Negros in the Philippines was shot dead in the street by unidentified gunmen. Ramos had been assisting victims of a massacre at a sugar plantation at the end of October, when nine poor farmers were killed, allegedly by private security forces of the local landlord. The Philippines National Police had publicised the lawyer’s name and picture in a poster, thereby effectively endorsing his assassination.
This press statement by the UK-based Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines was originally published on November 9th, 2018.