The EU would like to thank the High Commissioner for a well-researched report, which addresses the most serious human rights violations in the Philippines with a focus on the importance of ensuring accountability.
Following the adoption by the Council of the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines, the EU encouraged the Philippines, to cooperate closely with the OHCHR in this regard, as it pledged to do when joining the Council. We are pleased to see that the government has indeed cooperated with OHCHR on the report, although OHCHR did not receive permission from the Government to conduct a visit to the Philippines.
The situation in the Philippines has consistently been raised by the High Commissioner and Special Procedures over the last years. The European Union would like to reiterate our concern at the death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs in the country and call for effective, impartial and transparent investigations of all cases of death. We also encourage the Philippine authorities to investigate reports of harassment and killings of human rights defenders and lawyers, journalists and other media workers, and religious leaders and indigenous peoples. The EU calls on the government to continue to keep the Philippines a country without death penalty in line with the Philippines' obligation under the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. The EU urges the Philippines to review the proposed 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, which broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention. The vague definitions may violate the principle of legality.
The EU also urges the Philippines to uphold its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Article 40 in relation to the criminal age. The High Commissioner’s report mentions the killing of at least 73 children in the context of the campaign against illegal drugs between 1 June 2016 and 21 April 2020, as documented by the Commission on Human Rights. The youngest victim was five months old.
The conviction of Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos by a Manila Regional Trial Court on 15 June, which is open to appeal, raises serious doubts over the respect for the right to freedom of expression as well as for the rule of law in the Philippines. The shutdown of ABS-CBN is another example of this issue. Freedom of opinion and expression, online and offline, are essential parts of any democracy worldwide. The European Union will always stand up for these human rights. The Philippines is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which, in its Article 19, enshrines the right to freedom of expression. We expect the Philippines, like all countries, to uphold its international human rights obligations and protect and promote fundamental freedoms.
The European Union is already engaged with the Philippines in institutional support and capacity building within the area of justice reform and human rights. The EU is keen on enhancing our bilateral cooperation and further discussing the human rights situation with the Philippines. We are looking forward to the first meeting of the Sub-Committee on Good Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights that was established during the first Joint Committee of the EU-Philippines Partnership and Cooperation Agreement held in Brussels on 28 January 2020.
Madame High Commissioner,