Philippine President Marcos Forms Panel to Tackle Human Rights Issues

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. creates a special committee to address human rights issues, including extrajudicial killings and drug-war related violations. The committee aims to enhance mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights amid criticism from civic groups and human rights organizations.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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Philippine President Marcos Forms Panel to Tackle Human Rights Issues

Philippine President Marcos Forms Panel to Tackle Human Rights Issues

Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has established a special committee to address human rights issues in the country, including extrajudicial killings and drug-war related violations. The Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination, created through Administrative Order No. 22 signed on May 8, aims to enhance mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights amid criticism from civic groups and human rights organizations.

Why this matters: The creation of this committee marks a significant step towards addressing the country's history of human rights violations, which has drawn international attention and criticism. Effective implementation of this committee's objectives could lead to increased accountability and a reduction in human rights abuses, setting a positive precedent for other countries with similar issues.

The committee, chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and co-chaired by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, will sustain initiatives of the United Nations Joint Program on Human Rights in areas such as law enforcement, criminal justice, and policy-making. Its key objectives include strengthening human rights investigation and accountability, gathering data on alleged violations by law enforcement, expanding civic space and private sector engagement, and promoting human rights-based approaches to drug control and counter-terrorism.

However, human rights groups have expressed skepticism about the committee's effectiveness. Carlos H. Conde, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, noted that the committee lacks UN or civil society organization participation and is led by the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, which has a "zero record on accountability for rights abuses." Karapatan, a human rights organization, views the new body as a "desperate attempt to window-dress" the situation, citing the lack of accountability for violations committed during previous and current regimes.

The Philippines has a history of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and drug-war related violations. The International Criminal Court has been investigating drug-war related killings under former President Rodrigo R. Duterte. The government estimates that at least 6,117 people were killed in the drug war between July 1, 2016, and May 31, 2022, while human rights groups claim the death toll could be as high as 30,000.

President Marcos' approach to human rights issues is seen as a departure from that of his predecessor. "It is imperative to sustain and enhance the accomplishments under the UNJP, which is set to expire on July 31, 2024, through institutionalization of a robust multi-stakeholder process for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines," Marcos stated in the Administrative Order. The initial implementation of the order will be funded by the current budgetary allocations of the participating agencies within the special committee.

As of May 7, the Dahas Project of the University of the Philippines' Third World Studies Center has recorded at least 652 drug-related killings under Marcos' administration. The creation of the Special Committee on Human Rights Coordination marks a significant step in addressing these issues, but its effectiveness remains to be seen as the country grapples with its complex history of human rights violations.

Key Takeaways

  • Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. creates a special committee to address human rights issues.
  • The committee aims to enhance mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights.
  • Objectives include strengthening human rights investigation, accountability, and civic space.
  • Human rights groups express skepticism, citing lack of UN/civil society participation and accountability.
  • The committee's effectiveness remains to be seen in addressing the country's complex human rights issues.