[Press Release] Human Rights Groups give Duterte failing marks on 5th SONA -iDEFEND

Human Rights Groups give Duterte failing marks on 5th SONA

Quezon City- Panelists on an online discussion on Thursday about the performance of the government in President Duterte’s 5th term, gave failing marks on its delivery of services and protection of human rights.

Ms. Floreen Simon of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said that journalists continue to face serious attacks and intimidation for doing their job. Their networks reported 171 cases of threats and attacks against the press between 2016 and 2020, the majority of which happened in Metro Manila followed by Central Luzon, Northern Mindanao, and Davao region. Simon said the most common attacks were intimidation, followed by online harassment, liber charges, and finally killings.
Ms. Simon’s presentation:

In a PowerPoint presentation, Medical Action Group Chairperson Dr. Nemuel Fajutagana gave the government’s national COVID strategy a poor rating, saying we have a very confused implementation of quarantine programs. He also lamented that many medical frontliners still suffer from a lack of protection and support. He likewise rated a poor status for the country’s prevention and control of the spread of the pandemic saying we only have guns and thermo scanners. He hoped that more support could be provided to community-based health workers.

Dr. Fajutagana’s presentation:


Atty. Camille Maranan of the Scientists Unite Against COVID19 and Asia Foundation’s lead technical and legal advisor for COVID19 Mass Testing said that seven months since the WHO warned about the pandemic and four months since the start of the lockdowns, the government said that by the end of May 2020 we will have reached 30,000 testings per day, but this has not happened- the government has so far reached 28,000 only by July. “Worse, the government is gaslighting our calls for mass testing,” Maranan said, “every time the call for mass testing gains mileage the DOH misinterprets the call to mean testing the whole population”. Maranan then played a video explainer of the mass testing campaign call:

Aldreen Talavera of the group Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator tutol sa Phase Out (STOP) said the government took advantage of the COVID19 crisis to wipe out the livelihood of millions of jeepney drivers in the guise of the jeepney modernization program. He added jeepney drivers and their families are among the worst-hit populations in the health crisis because of the lack of food and financial aid. However, upon the lifting of the ECQ, their hopes of returning to work had been dashed as they remained banned from the streets. He stressed that jeepney drivers are not against modernization but are against the wiping out of their livelihood.

Ms. Wilma Cabo of the Cebu-based Independent Vendors for Empowerment and Development (IVEND) said that in 2019 vendors faced the loss of their livelihoods because of DILG Memorandum Circular 121-2019 ordering the clearing of road obstructions. This affected around six (6) thousand vendors who are mostly family breadwinners, resulting in 42,000 hungry individuals by the time COVID19 hit the country.

Atty. Ritz Lee of iDEFEND Mindanaw said there are more than 60,000 civil society organizations registered with the SEC which demonstrate the active civic spirit in the country, but that “there are pervasive attacks against civil society organizations, particularly for human rights defenders there are vilification, threats, arbitrary detention, legal harassments, enforced disappearance and most painful- killings… The UN OHCHR verified that at least 200 human rights defenders- journalists, workers, lawyers including 30 women, have been killed between 2015-2019. The government failed to ensure effective, independent investigation and prosecution.”

Ms. Jelen Paclarin of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) pointed out that the first targets of the Duterte administration were women: Senator Leila de Lima, CJ Sereno, Leni Robredo, Maria Ressa and women journalists of Rappler and even UN Special Mandate holders and experts. Duterte used their gender to discredit and vilify them for speaking out. She said that Duterte’s government officials have normalized cursing in public governance. She said that searches on the internet for “Duterte rape jokes” garnered 151,000 results. She lamented the widespread victim-blaming for crimes of rape and sexual assault, recalling that some police Facebook posts cautioned women against wearing short dresses or short skirts to avoid being raped or sexually harassed. She recalled what happened to Faber Pineda, a minor who reported being raped by police and was later killed on her way home. She likewise noted that poor implementation of the Safe Spaces Act especially when women go online.

Paclarin likewise gave the Duterte government a failing mark in this grade sheet:

Responding to questions about the groups’ contribution to solving the country’s problems Dr. Fajutagana stressed that their groups continue to engage government particularly DOH and in academic circles towards influencing better approaches to policy and decision-making. Ms. Simon cited the media’s crucial role in providing accurate and timely information so that people can adopt appropriate responses to their situation.

The groups called on the public to join the July 27 SONAgKAISA mass action related to President Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA), online or offline, stressing the people to Stay Safe but Not Silent.

The full Livestream discussion can be viewed here

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