UN officials to probe Philippine human rights situation

Posted at 06/12/14 7:49 PM

MANILA - Two United Nations special rapporteurs are expected to visit the Philippines to look into the country's human rights situation.

The Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights (EcuVoice) met with Dr. Chaloka Beyani and Gabriela Knaul at the 26th UN Human Rights Council sessions.

Beyani, UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, is slated to visit the country this year. Knaul, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, already requested the country for a visit.

The EcuVoice delegation asked both to look into reports of forced evacuations due to military operations, forced evictions, the continuing displacement of typhoon Haiyan victims, and the attacks against human rights lawyers in the Philippines.

"Peasant communities and indigenous tribes are driven away from their homes by extractive operations, tourism, and infrastructure projects such as dams. The plight of poverty-stricken indigenous communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte and many other parts of Mindanao is exacerbated as big foreign and domestic mining companies encroach on their lands and ancestral domains," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay told Beyani.

Typhoon survivor Rev. Irma Balaba, on the other hand, told him: "More than six months after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines, the survivors continue to languish in appalling conditions with scarce, if any, access to shelter, potable water, basic services, and sustainable livelihood, despite the outpouring of support from the international community."
Meanwhile, National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Edre Olalia, told Knaul about the various attacks against lawyers and judges.

"The human rights lawyers in the frontline are also under attack and immediate steps must be taken by the international community on top of domestic efforts before things even get worse," Olalia pleaded with Knaul.

A UN mandate holder like Special Rapporteurs can only conduct a country visit upon formal invitation by the State on an official request. The Philippine government previously announced during the country's Universal Periodic Review in 2012 that it will officially invite Beyani, but the official visit has not materialized since then.

The predecessor of Knaul, on the other hand, requested for a visit in 2006.

The Philippine government, however, has not issued an invitation.