By PhilRights Staff

Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…

On 32nd Anniversary of People Power, condemnation of “dictator” Duterte

On Sunday, thousands of protesters commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the peaceful overthrow of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with calls condemning President Duterte’s own authoritarian tendencies.

Al Jazeera’s reporting on the activities began tellingly with this: “Thirty-two years since it ousted its last dictator, the Philippines faces the possibility of having another one.” The protesters’ calls on Sunday of “Marcos, Duterte: diktador, pasista” reflected this sentiment.

The report also included an interview with Dindo Mahit, president of thinktank Stratbase ADR Institute, who issued this reminder, “[H]e became mayor of Davao because of People Power. People should also remember that the leader of the anti-Marcos movement in Davao was the mother of Mr. Duterte.”

Speaking of Mindanao, the Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties (M4CL), issued a manifesto of unity at the end of 7th Mindanao Human Rights Summit on February 24. The group, a “broad formation of church-based and cause-oriented organizations that upholds human rights and civil liberties,” said that “Mindanao’s human rights situation “has become a cause for grave concern under the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the first Mindanaoan to be elected to the highest office of the land.”

The statement further reads, “Human rights groups recorded 126 cases of extra-judicial killings of farmers and indigenous peoples, many reported killings in relation to the anti-illegal drugs drive, 428 cases of trumped-up charges, and forcible evacuations of thousands of Moro and indigenous peoples (IP) communities due to military operations to date.

The statement overall calls for an end to Martial Law in Mindanao, opposition to Charter Change proposals and support for the peace process and the upholding of civil liberties and human rights.

You can read the full statement here.

Despite ICC investigation, Duterte vows war on drugs will continue 

In a Davao speech, President Duterte insisted that the so-called war on drugs will continue despite the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to conduct a preliminary examination to look into the deaths of thousands of alleged drug offenders.

The Inquirer quotes Duterte as saying: “It will not stop the war on drugs. ICC or no ICC it will proceed until the last day of my term.” And neither will the heavy death toll – “Just because there are dead persons, we [do not] have to stop our campaign agaist drugs.”

Duterte’s reasoning, glib as ever, is that stopping the so-called war on drugs would “compromise the next generation.”

Iceland calls for PH to allow UN to conduct an “objective assessment” on human rights situation

Iceland’s foreign affairs minister Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, called on the Philippines to accept a UN Special Rapporteur visit “without preconditions or limitations.”

GMA News reports that Thórdarson issued the call for an “objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country” during the first meeting of the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council.

Iceland also welcomed initial statements of cooperation from the Philippine government in the just announced ICC preliminary examination, but still asks that the UN Human Rights Council consider stepping in, saying that the ICC review – and the Philippines’ cooperation – “does not take the responsibility away from this party to fulfill its duty to monitor, investigate and to deliberate and take further steps, including more formal council initiatives, if the need arises – to try and assure the Philippines meets its human rights obligations.” 

Must Read: Rappler looks into PH government’s ties to Russian propaganda machinery 

Rappler is reporting that a known Twitter bot for Russian propaganda with the handle @Ivan226622 is now tweeting exclusively about the Philippines. Says Rappler, “In just one week, from February 13 to 20, Ivan tweeted 1,518 times. Most are retweets of news reports from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.”

Another curious instance is Julian Assange’s sudden interest in Philippine affairs, which Rappler attempts to connect with Assange’s rumored links with Kremlin. More concerning, the report also notes the announced partnership between the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications “in the field of information dissemination, including media training of PCOO staffers in Russia.”

While less investigative in its tack, the piece instead aims to serve as an early warning, calling these emerging connections as “disturbing possibilities.”

Read the piece here.

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