Pasig City, Philippines, March 24 – “Winning against the Marcos-Duterte alliance is a step towards justice for victims of human rights violations,” said IBON International Executive Director Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo at a multi-stakeholder public forum on the 2022 Philippine elections titled Prospects for Recovery, Human Rights, and People-Centered Development.
Organized by IBON International and the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), the hybrid in-person and digital event gathered over ninety national and international development actors, including former Philippine election commissioner Rowena Guanzon, government actors, representatives from the Manila diplomatic community, academe, civil society and people’s organizations. Dr. Hannah Neumann, member of the European Parliament, addressed the gathering in a taped message. The forum provided space for Filipinos and international actors to discuss pertinent people’s demands.
Speakers at the forum called for stronger international cooperation on the human rights situation in the Philippines. They asserted that the next Philippine president and the international community including the International Criminal Court should work together to ensure that President Rodrigo Duterte would be held to account and prosecuted for state-perpetrated killings and human rights violations. Prof. Reginald Vallejos of the Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (SUKI Network) and Ariel Casilao of the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura said that the next administration should reverse neoliberal measures to address poverty and other inequalities made worse by the government’s failed militarist pandemic response. They called to move away from a “business-as-usual” approach to recovery, and to focus on domestic job creation and development of national agricultural and industrial capacities.
The forum reiterated people’s concerns over the electoral alliance of the successors of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and Duterte, who are running for president and vice-president, respectively. CSOs and people’s movements in the Philippines believe that the Marcos-Duterte coalition will only further entrench impunity and tyranny, and hinder the country’s recovery and development.
Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo, Executive Director of IBON International, said: “Attacking people who criticize anti-poor economic policies and pandemic response, while enriching their cronies—this is a legacy of the deposed Marcos and the incumbent Duterte. We cannot allow this anymore. We have to prevent their successors’ electoral victory, in a longer battle for rights, justice for victims, and the full accountability of dictatorships.”
Dean Antonio La Viña, Board of Trustee, Council for People’s Development and Governance, said: It is very important for the opposition not to lose hope, to be data-driven, to work very hard to overcome the lead [of Marcos Jr.]. But [whether] the opposition [will] win or lose, the prospects for recovery and development will be difficult—obviously, more challenging under a Marcos government. The kind of development we want will not happen automatically with the election of a new official – we still have to work together.
Hannah Neumann, Member of the European Parliament, said: “A European Union (EU) Parliament resolution states that it is important that these elections would be free and fair. We will be supporting local observation machines. We will watch carefully how the political climate, especially when it comes to human rights, will change after the elections. We very much hope that we will see a lot of prospects for cooperation [between civil society and the next elected officials].”
Prof. Raymund Rosuelo, Research Division Chief, Commission on Human Rights, said: “The lack of cooperation from state institutions, particularly from the security sector, becomes a problem to fully resolve the killings so we could exact accountability. We are hopeful that the next administration will be more receptive to human rights concerns, who will not see human rights as an enemy, but an integral part of the development process.”
Peter Murphy, Chairperson, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), said: “Despite Duterte’s attempts to delay [the ICC] investigation, we should ensure that the ICC upholds its mandate and that the investigation leads to the issuing of arrest warrants. Duterte’s refusal of the EU’s request for an election observer mission only underlines the importance of ICHRP’s International Observer Mission. Our Mission can raise concerns over international negligence in the human rights crisis.”
Prof. Danilo Arao, Convenor, Kontra Daya, said: Ensuring clean and honest elections for May 9 is what unites all of us even if it means being harassed and intimidated by those who wish for the perpetuation of impunity and tyranny.
IBON International is an international civil society organization tackling socio-economic issues faced by peoples in the global South. CPDG is a Philippine network of 60 non-government organizations working on development and democracy. To learn more, visit iboninternational.org. #