UN expert says more needs to be done to address human rights abuses in the Philippines

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United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan, (center), gestures after talking to reporters during a press conference in Mandaluyong, Philippines on Feb. 2. (AP)

MANILA, Philippines, Feb 3, (AP): The government of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has taken steps to address human rights abuses in the country, including the killings of journalists and rights activists, a UN expert said Friday. However, more needs to be done, she said, including ensuring accountability.
The remarks by United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan came at the end of a nearly two-week visit – at the invitation of the government – to assess rights conditions in the Philippines, where she met with officials and activists, as well as a detained journalist.
Khan said she underscored the need for the Marcos administration to seek justice for rights victims under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.
Watchdog groups had described Duterte’s term as a “human rights calamity” due to widespread violations, including the killings of thousands of mostly poor suspects in a brutal anti-drugs crackdown. The International Criminal Court is investigating the killings as a potential crime against humanity.
“These are all positive signals, but they are not sufficient to turn the page decisively on the past,” Khan said at a news conference in Manila.
“Tackling the grave and deep-seated human rights problems of the Philippines … will require more fundamental and sustained reforms and also a clear commitment to accountability,” Khan said.
She cited UN figures saying that at least 81 past killings of journalists in the Philippines have not been investigated and remain unresolved.
With four journalists separately being killed since Marcos took office in 2022, “the trend remains disturbing,” she said. The justice department in Manila was prosecuting suspects in three of the killings and an investigation was underway in the fourth case, she added.
“The killing of journalists is the most egregious form of censorship,” Khan said, adding that the Philippines “remains a dangerous country for journalists.”
Khan urged Marcos’ government to abolish its task force overseeing a campaign to end a decades-old communist insurgency, one of the longest-running in the world, and also appealed against the policy of “red-tagging,” a practice by authorities to link activists with armed insurgents.

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