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A Statement of Unity on the Respect, Protection and Fulfillment of Human Rights in the Philippines

Human Rights Congress
06-07 December 2018
Leong Auditorium, Ateneo de Manila University

Human Rights Congress 2018

We, human rights advocates from government and civil society organizations, coming from diverse geographic locations, ethnicities, sectors, and ideological positions, on the historic occasion of the 70th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, hereby unite these urgent circumstances with the following points of solidarity:

1) We affirm and uphold the fundamental human rights of every person, as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other human rights instruments as well as the role of the State in protecting and fulfilling these rights as duty-bearers;

2) We recognize the complexity and intersectionality of human rights with other basic and cross-cutting issues such as poverty, gender, climate change, peace, and migration;

3) We are alarmed at the worsening human rights situation in the country, exemplified by the thousands of lives lost and damaged in extra-judicial killings; the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao; and the militarization of Marawi City and the country sides;

4) We condemn and continued undermining of the democratic institutions and instruments that protect human rights, such as the Commission of Human Rights, the justice system and media;

5) We denounce the strengthening of a culture of impunity, especially among armed duty bearers; and

6) We deplore the glorification of violence against actors such as government critics, women, and the church as a State discourse, and the silencing of human rights defenders.

Thus, it is with one voice that we call on the State to immediately and comprehensively act on the following:

1) Focus its efforts on addressing basic issues of poverty, inequality, and the people’s lack of access to State services such as justice, education, health and decent employment;

2) Ensure the accountability of public officers and duty bearers, starting from the highest echelons of the State, in upholding, respecting, guarding, fulfilling and monitoring human rights in the country;

3) Protect the human rights of all, especially of the most vulnerable, the invisible and the marginalized such as the poor, the indigenous peoples, women, and children, and their right to live in dignity and to nurture their ancestral domains and resources;

4) Safeguard human rights defender coming from government, civil society organizations, educational institutions, faith-based groups, farmers, sectoral leaders, artists, environmental activists, and journalists;

5) Defend and expand democratic spaces and sites for discussion and dissent, instead of threatening them;

6) Include multiple and diverse voices and positionalities in governance, policymaking and public discourse;

7) Empower local communities as safe spaces for human rights to be enjoyed;

8) Dismantle the culture of impunity among the police, military, and para-military and vigilante groups, and enforce respect for the rule of law in communities;

9) Strengthen, not weaken, national and international instruments for the protection of human rights;

10) Apply the full, speedy and just force of the law in arresting, investigating, and charging and convicting human rights violators;

11) Promote a just, humane, and lasting peace in Mindanao that is based not on institutional violence such as terrorist tagging, torture, and illegal arrests but through the immediate lifting of Martial Law, the resumption of peace talks; the full rehabilitation of Marawi City; and grounded, comprehensive, participative, and culturally-sensitive strategies.

In turn, we recognize our role as human right advocates, and hereby commit to:

1) Oppose the legitimization of State violence and war against the poor, exemplified by the sham “war on drugs”;

2) Fight the culture of silence, fear and stigma that prevents the reporting and documentation of human rights violations;

3) Harness the power of governance and elections to institute genuine change, and challenge political leaders to deliver a rights-based platform to their communities;

4) Increased vigilance, courage, unity of thought and action, openness to engage in partnership with like-minded stakeholders, within and outside the country, and including State actors, to advance human rights and increase the ranks of human rights champions.

To these principles we agree and commit ourselves on this 7th day of December 2018.

2018 Human Rights Congress Participants

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