Several member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Philippines during the Universal Periodic Review Working Group’s formal session on 14 November in Geneva, Switzerland.

At least 30 states said the Philippines should end impunity and bring victims of extrajudicial killings to justice. Other states, including the United States of America, Sierra Leone, Sweden, Romania and Lichtenstein, called in particular on the Marcos II government to end the practice of ‘red-tagging’ that has threatened the lives and liberties of human rights defenders, journalists, environmental activists and indigenous peoples.

Sierra Leone went further and called for the abolition of the anti-communist government agency National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Several more states, including Ireland, Estonia, Austria, France, Lithuania, and Latvia urged the Philippines to rejoin the International Criminal Court or return to the 2002 Rome Statute that established the ICC.

“We view these remarks from the international community as positive and should be seriously considered by the Philippine government. However, as expected, the Philippine government refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the human rights crisis in the Philippines,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of patriotic alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Earlier that week, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor said she finds it “quite unsettling” that the Philippine government has ignored the 11 recommendations made by the UNHRC when the country was last reviewed in May 2017.

According to Lawlor, the Philippines was urged to carry out impartial investigations into the killings of human rights defenders, to enact measures to protect them, and to promote a safe and enabling environment for their work. 

Lawlor spoke in an event leading to the fourth UPR on the Philippines. Other speakers in the event included delegates from Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, People’s Alternative Media Network, iDEFEND and Ron de Vera, son of political detainee and women’s rights advocate Adora Faye de Vera.

De Vera later submitted a formal complaint to Ms. Lawlor’s office on his mother’s arrest and detention, detailing deprivations suffered by inmates in Philippine prisons. NUPL secretary general Josalee Deinla also submitted a complaint on the continuing detention of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino and two others, despite a court’s declaration that the search warrants used in their arrest are defective.

Nasino made international headlines in 2020 when prison authorities made it difficult for her to attend the wake and burial of her infant she gave birth to in detention.

Under the UPR process, the human rights situation in the Philippines will again be under review in 2027.