UN Releases Damning Report on Philippine Government’s Human Rights Violations

The Philippines has caught the attention of the highest office overseeing human rights around the world—the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (United Nations Human Rights)—and not for good reasons.

TOP STORY: What Makes the Anti-Terrorism Bill So Alarming?

In detailed 26-page report, the UN Human Rights Office headed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet laid out all the recent and widespread violations of human rights and persistent impunity in the Philippines. The report focused on four primary issues: the death toll of the violent war against drugs, the growing number of laws eroding constitutional protections, the oppression of indigenous persons, farmers, and refugees, and rhetoric inviting hatred and violence.

“People who use or sell drugs do not lose their human rights,” said High Commissioner Bachelet, the principal human rights official in the United Nations. “People who disagree with Government policies and criticize them, including in international fora, should not be vilified as terrorist sympathizers. Indigenous peoples should not be victims of a tug-of-war between the State, non-State armed groups and business interests.

It is vital the Government’s responses be grounded in human rights approaches and guided by meaningful dialogue. Accountability and full transparency for alleged violations are essential for building public trust. Unfortunately, the report has documented deep-seated impunity for serious human rights violations, and victims have been deprived of justice for the killings of their loved ones. Their testimonies are heartbreaking.”


The timely release of the report arrives in the middle of a polarizing debate regarding the controversial 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, which is being heavily criticized as an anti-democratic tool with the potential to silence dissent.

According to the report, “The proposed 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, slated to replace the already problematic Human Security Act, dilutes human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant from three to 14 days, extendable by another 10 days. The vague definitions in the Anti-Terrorism Act may violate the principle of legality.”

The report also noted that, “The rhetoric has ranged from degrading and sexually-charged comments against women human rights defenders, politicians and combatants—including rape “jokes”—to statements making light of torture, calling for bombing of indigenous peoples, encouraging extreme violence against drug users and peddlers—even offering bounties, calling for beheadings of civil society actors, and warning that journalists were not immune from “assassination”.”

Despite the heavy criticism of the report, the Office of the High Commissioner listed a number of recommendations that could solve the situation, as well as offering support to stop the “long-standing” human rights violations in the country.

“Persistent impunity for human rights violations is stark and the practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable. Human rights advocacy is routinely equated with insurgency and the focus diverted to discrediting the messengers rather than examining the substance of the message. This has muddied the space for debate, disagreement and for challenging State institutions and policies, resulting in deep mistrust between Government and civil society—a rift that urgently needs to be repaired,” said the report.

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UN Human Rights has headquarters in Geneva and is tasked with protecting human rights for the sake of global peace and security. The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council this month.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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