September 21, 2019
QUEZON CITY – Filipino human rights defenders and Europe-based groups supporting rights issues in the Philippines met yesterday, September 20, 2019, with Iceland Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson in the capital city of Reykjavik to discuss updates on the human rights situation in the Philippines and to thank the Icelandic government for their initiative to lead the adoption of the July 2019 UN Human Rights Council resolution.
Marissa Lazaro, mother of a victim of extra-judicial killing and member of Rise Up for Life and Rights, Karapatan Western Mindanao Chairperson Bishop Antonio Ablon, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Fr. June Mark Yanez of the European Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines (ENJPP), Fr. Herbert Fadriquela, Chaplain to the Filipino Community Diocese of Leicester, Church of England, Bro. Jun Santiago of Rise Up for Life and Rights, Dara Bascara of Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines, Fr. Salvador Telen, Vicar of St Saviour Walthamstow, Seyra Rico of Nagkakaisang Pilipino sa Pransya were among those who attended the meeting.
"It was effective to meet this good group of human rights activists from the Philippines. Particularly, I found it shocking to listen to Marissa Lazaro who lost her son in 2017 in what the government has called a war on drugs. Since then, Marissa has dedicated herself to the fight for human rights and justice in the Philippines. I have long been concerned with human rights and Iceland's participation in the United Nations Human Rights Council has been particularly rewarding. The meeting today convinced me even more that our work there is very important,” said Iceland Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, in a post on Facebook after the meeting (as translated).
Marissa Lazaro tearfully narrated the details of the killing of her 20-year-old son and how the authorities and Philippine legal institutions continue to fail her in her quest for justice and closure.
Bishop Ablon and Palabay gave testimonies on the worsening attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines, with the martial law declaration in Mindanao and the de facto martial law situation in Negros, Southern Tagalog and the whole country. Ablon stressed the need for governments like Iceland to continue supporting human rights concerns in the Philippines.
The said meeting came after reports on Malacañang’s denial of a government memorandum suspending negotiations, signing of loans & grants from countries that backed the UNHRC resolution.
“Through these actions, the Philippine government clearly do not intend to cooperate with the UN HRC resolution. They refuse to take all necessary measures to prevent EJKs and enforced disapearances, to carry out impartial investigations and to hold perpetrators accountable. They refuse to cooperate with human rights mechanisms of the UN. They refuse to acknowledge the comprehensive report that will be undertaken by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Yet in full regalia of their hypocrisy and opportunism, their representatives have recently spoken before the HRC and used the platform to deflect accountability and to heap reprisals on victims and human rights defenders,” Palabay said.
“Such actions also reflect the impact of such resolution on the Philippine government, however way they want to spin it. Panelo’s denial on the existence of such memo is merely another example of the kind of governance that has translated to the Duterte government’s foreign policy - lie to death and wriggle your way out if you get caught to evade scrutiny on their commitments to international human rights norms and use the empty excuse of sovereignty,” Palabay concluded.