Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines

EU Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world 2018: Philippines country update

Bruxelles, 14/05/2019 - 08:41, UNIQUE ID: 190514_33
Press releases

On 13 May 2019, the Council of the European Union adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2018.

Here is the country chapter about the Philippines:

Overview of the human rights and democracy situation:

In 2018 the way the campaign against illegal drugs was conducted and overcrowding in jails remained matters of grave concern, as well as the significant number of drug-related killings during law-enforcement operations, the apparent lack of due process during these operations and the fact that these deaths were not effectively investigated. The announced adoption by the Government of a national human rights' action plan by end 2018 was delayed. The human rights framework

remained fragile, with the Commission on Human Rights and other oversight bodies under threat. Local observers referred to a "climate of fear" with the President’s most vocal opponents being removed or silenced.

According to them, the "war on drugs" was being used to clamp down not only on opposition but also on journalists, lawyers and trade unionists. Some expressed great worries regarding the erosion of the rule of law and of the independence of the judiciary (when investigating drug-related cases) and the announced withdrawal of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Improvements have been noted in the implementation of human rights largely as a result of the Philippines' socio-economic development. Economic growth and reforms are contributing to raising living standards in the country, as does the Philippines' agenda on universal health care and job creation as part of inclusive economic growth. Improvements of children's access to education and health continue. Action is being taken to combat trafficking and support its victims, as well as sheltering children in armed conflict. In addition, the EU noticed that the Government did not re-establish death penalty as announced.

Adoption of the Bangsamoro Organic Law by Congress and its signature by President Duterte has been perceived as a sign of progress to promote peace and stability in the Philippines. A local referendum in the concerned areas is scheduled to take place on 21 January and 6 February 2019. Conversely, peace negotiations with the communists, involving the government of Norway have been stalled.

EU action - key focus areas:

In January, the Commission published its GSP+ country Report for the Philippines covering the period 2016-2017. In September the Commission and the EEAS carried out a 4th GSP + monitoring mission. The mission concluded on a mixed picture with continuing violations of civil and political rights and some positive developments in the socioeconomic and environmental fields. In April, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a human rights resolution and called on the Government of the Philippines to put an immediate end to the extrajudicial killings and invite the authorities to cooperate fully with the UN Special Procedures. The EP also called on the Government to remove human rights defenders from its terrorist list and welcomed the initiative of the ICC to inquire into the allegations of crimes against humanity in the context of the killings during the "war on drugs".

In November, the EU Delegation in Manila issued a statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in the Philippines condemning the killing of Attorney Benjamin Tarug Ramos, Secretary General of Negros Occidental Chapter of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers. Attorney Ramos was the main lawyer for the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros Occidental and provided assistance to farmers following the killing of nine sugar cane farmers in October 2018.

EU bilateral political engagement:

The EU Delegation and several EU Member States' Embassies had public speaking engagements and development cooperation projects on human rights. There were meetings with Human Rights Defenders, including NGO representatives, journalists and Commissioners of the Commission on Human Rights, to get updates on the fight against impunity and ongoing efforts to promote rule of law in the Philippines, as well as to share views on possible contributions from the international community to improve the general situation of human rights in the country. 215

In August, following the ratification of the Philippines-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) the same year, the EU Delegation organised a conference about the PCA with various government stakeholders. The conference included a panel on human rights involving two EU Member States, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labour and the Human Rights Office of the President. Since early 2018, there have been bilateral negotiations between the EU and the Philippines regarding the rules of procedure of the PCA Joint Committee.

4. EU financial engagements in the Philippines in the field of human rights remained in line with the EU's priorities for the year. They included financing agreements with the government in the area of justice reform and support to national human rights institutions (GOJUST programme) and the finalisation of a programme on health (including a Dangerous Drug Abuse and Prevention Programme) under the Development Cooperation Instrument; support to CSOs through calls for proposals under the EIDHR and CSO/LA instruments; and support to the Mindanao Peace Process through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.

Multilateral context:

Throughout 2018, there have been several statements of UN experts raising concerns about government's efforts to shut down independent media outlet, establishment of a list of 600 individuals accused of terrorism, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Philippine nationality and about public threats issued against the Philippines’ Chief Justice by the country’s President, following her dismissal. In March, the International Criminal Court confirmed that it was investigating crime allegations against President Duterte, both as mayor of Davao and then as President of the country. In response, the President announced the Philippines' withdrawal from the Rome Statute. In February and June, Iceland tabled two successive resolutions that were supported by 27 EU Member States, raising concerns about the human rights situation in the Philippines. In June, the EU adopted a statement at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) reiterating its concerns on the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the death toll associated with the campaign against illegal drugs. The EU expected the Government to fulfil its obligations under national and international law and regretted the country's decision to initiate its withdrawal from the Rome Statute. The EU also expressed concern over due process in the removal of Chief Justice Sereno and urged the government to protect the independence of the judiciary in the Philippines. In October the Philippines won another three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council.

Download: EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, 2018


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