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Advisory from the Government

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the preliminary findings of UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression

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The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) recognizes the preliminary findings of UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan to improve the current situation on freedom of opinion and expression in the Philippines after her country visit on 30 January to 2 February 2024.

During the Commission’s interactions with the Special Rapporteur, matters concerning the Filipinos’ rights to expression, freedom of the press, and human rights standards on related matters were discussed. These inputs coordinated by the CHR, alongside other government institutions and representatives from the civil society, provided deeper insights on the Philippine context which were then utilised by Ms. Khan to identify opportunities, challenges, and recommendations upon her visit.

We acknowledge the findings of the Special Rapporteur to pave the way towards a safer environment for Filipinos in upholding their right to opinion and expression. Particularly, the Commission reaffirms its call to partner with the government in bolstering efforts that put an end on the practice of red-tagging. We must remain mindful that red-tagging is a human rights violation on its own and may lead to a multiplicity of other acts of violence which put the welfare of the general public at risk.

The Commission also acknowledges the recommendation regarding the mandate of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). We extend our reminder to fellow duty-bearers that Philippine democracy thrives at the core of promoting and protecting the dignity of every Filipino, including their right to participate in public governance. As such, we urge the NTF-ELCAC to review its mandate and assess how it can attend to the current needs of the country. CHR is more than ready to put forward policy advisories and offer relevant training aligned with our Promotion mandate to further equip the NTF-ELCAC in fulfilling its mandate through a human rights-based approach.

It must be noted that the CHR held a forum on red-tagging last 06 December 2023 where representatives from the civil society, alongside the NTF-ELCAC, took part in discussions to gather insights on the matter and foster constructive dialogue among stakeholders. This year, CHR is slated to hold its Inquiry on Red-tagging to further nuance the dialogue between the government and civil society on the harms brought by these actions to the life, liberty, and security of the public.

The Commission also echoes the call of the Special Rapporteur for the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) to also review their approach in viewing and investigating violence committed against journalists. This could be done by first prioritising the establishment of a standard definition of a media worker to determine how to approach investigations which involve their line of work.

To further understand the dangers and challenges which hinder journalists from fully performing their work, it is incumbent upon the Philippine government to recognise that their duty to deliver the truth to the public comes with a heavier risk in their safety. As such, CHR also expresses its hope that the PTFoMS will strengthen its coordination with the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies in ensuring that the investigations concerning media-related violence are attended to with a keen eye on considering their work and that rule of law is consistently upheld.

The Commission looks forward to the implementation of measures of the Philippine government which directly address the gaps identified by the Special Rapporteur. On the part of CHR, we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve the current situation of the freedom of expression in the Philippines through the continued fulfilment of our mandate.

As the country’s independent national human rights institution, we stand as a partner of both the government and civil society in ensuring that the dignity and welfare of every Filipino remain to be the core interest of the Philippines through consistent adherence to human rights standards both at the national and international levels.###

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