by PhilRights Staff

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

Supreme Court Ousts Chief Justice Sereno

Embattled Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Serene is now out of the Supreme Court after her fellow justices voted 8-6 on the Quo Warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

As per the Philippine Star, the Supreme Court justices “on Friday ruled that Sereno, the country’s first woman chief justice, was “guilty of unlawfully holding” the top magistrate position.”

The decision invited jeers from the human rights community. Human Rights Watch called the decision, “unprecedented and nefarious.” The Philippine Star reports that HRW is “concerned that the removal of Sereno could be precedent for the removal of persons of other constitutional bodies such as the Commission on Human Rights.”

Sereno has always had a contentious relationship with Duterte and his administration. ABS-CBN quotes Duterte last month saying “I’m putting you on notice that I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court.” Sereno also belayed the president’s order for judges allegedly involved in narcotics to turn themselves in. She also voted against the extension of martial law and of the hero’s burial of the dictator Marcos.

Following Sereno’s ouster are worries that the Supreme Court, an institution which has historically appeared independent, is now compromised. Rappler reports that Associate Justice Marvic Leonen—who dissented in the majority decision to oust Sereno—called the petition and its granting a “legal abomination” and will leave the Supreme Court vulnerable. Leonen warned that the majority decision would put the Court in a subservient position to the Solicitor General and would become vulnerable to powerful interests.

Read Leonen’s dissent here.

PNP and HRW Dispute Drug War Death Count

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde says that the government is “winning” the so-called war on drugs. Albayalde issued the statement during the presentation of its latest #RealNumbersPH at Camp Crame, according to a Manila Bulletin report.

The Manila Bulletin cites the following numbers from Albayalde’s presentation: 4,251 drug suspects have died and 142,069 were arrested from 98,799 anti-illegal drugs operations from July 1, 2016 to April 30, 2018.

The numbers are markedly lower from estimates of human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch, for example, stands by its 12,000 estimate of total drug deaths. Indeed, HRW researcher Carlos Conde has accused the PNP of “manipulating the drug war data being released to the public to keep the number of casualties as low as possible,” according to a Manila Bulletin report.

Martial Law victims get compensation

Rappler reports that 11,103 victims of human rights violations under Martial Law and their kin will be receiving compensation from the Human Rights Victims Claims Board (HRVCB). The final list of 11,103 victims was only 14% of the total 75,749 applicants.

ABS-CBN reports that the money for reparations came from the former dictator Marcos’ secret Swiss bank deposit worth 10 billion pesos. The HRVCB will cease to exist on May 13, 2018.

An earlier batch of 4,000 victims received reparations last year, with the total number of recipients expected to reach 15,103.

MUST READ: Sabio, ICC complainant, talks to NPR

Lawyer Jude Sabio, who filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court on April 2017 against the Duterte administration’s so-called war on drugs, now fears for his life.

In an interview with the American National Public Radio (NPR), Sabio describes how filing the case has changed his life. The story quotes him as saying, “Nowadays I do not go out so much in public place…Specifically, I’m afraid that I’ll be killed at any time. Somebody will be just coming and pump a bullet into my head.”

Read the NPR interview here.

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