Asia-Europe Peoples Forum (AEPF)
Statement on the European Parliament’s Urgent Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

February 21, 2022

EU: Time to Act on Human Rights Situation in the Philippines

We, civil society organizations from Asia and Europe under the banner of the Asia-Europe Peoples Forum (AEPF) call on the European Commission (EC) to urgently act on the situation in the Philippines and initiate withdrawal procedures with respect to the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) granted to the Philippines.

Our call echoes the concerns raised by the members of the European Parliament contained in two European Parliament Resolutions (2020/2782 and 2022/2540 (RSP)) on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

In its 2020 Resolution, the European Parliament already drew attention to the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines including the attacks on human rights defenders under President Duterte and the thousands of extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations linked to the government’s war on drugs.

Furthermore, serious concerns were already raised over the deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines and condemned all cases of threats, harassment, intimidation, unfair prosecution and violence against journalists. Two years ago, the European Parliament sounded the alarm already on policies like the newly adopted anti-terrorism law, and proposals to reinstate the death penalty that could further undermine human rights in the country and go against the human rights obligation of the Philippines.

The latest urgent resolution highlighted, among others, the following critical developments that point to the failure of the Duterte government to address the issues and concerns raised:

  1. The Supreme Court upheld the legality of most of the Anti-Terrorism Act passed by President Duterte’s administration, which gives security forces the power to arrest and detain suspects for up to 24 days without a warrant and without bringing charges;
  2. COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines, particularly with regard to freedom of expression, media integrity and predictable enforcement, and has had grave repercussions on the capacity of the media and civil society to document such transgressions; whereas the most vulnerable communities in urban areas have been seriously affected by the police and the military’s use of violence to enforce quarantine;
  3. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in her most recent report on the Philippines of 7 October 2021, stressed that continuing and severe human rights violations and abuses across the country are taking place and that basic human rights standards are being ignored;
  4. The ICC pre-trial chamber announced that it had authorised the Office of the Prosecutor to open an investigation into crimes against humanity including murders committed in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ under the administration of President Duterte and also into those allegedly perpetrated in Davao City by the so-called Davao Death Squad from 2011 to 2016
  5. The Philippine House of Representatives adopted at third reading House Bill No 7814, which according to the Philippines Human Rights Commissioner ‘provides for presumptions of guilt for people accused of being traffickers, financiers, protectors, coddlers and/or being involved in illegal drugs’ and ‘also attempts to reintroduce the death penalty’;
  6. The adoption of the Human Rights Defenders Protection bill, passed by the House of Representatives, is still pending in the Senate

As civil society organizations in both the EU and Asia that follow the developments in the Philippines, and have worked closely with Philippine CSOs and movements, we supported the grant of special trade preferences to the Philippines in 2014 under the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP+). GSP+ is meant to advance sustainable development and good governance in the Philippines. These privileges were granted on condition of the Philippine government’s fulfillment of its obligations under the 27 conventions on human and labor rights.

Given the seriousness of the human rights violations in the country, the European Parliament has once again called on the European Commission to immediately initiate the procedure, which could lead to the temporary withdrawal of GSP+ preferences.

We support this renewed call, which echoes similar calls made by Philippine groups, and urge the European Commission to take decisive actions to initiate the process of withdrawal of these preferences.#

Contact: Joseph Purugganan, AEPF-Trade Justice and Corporate Accountability Cluster
[email protected]

The statement was originally published on Asia Europe People’s Forum website here.