During the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on 24 June – 12 July 2019, Iceland proposed a resolution for the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) to report on the human rights situation in the Philippines and for the Philippine government to allow UN experts to visit the Philippines with the government’s full cooperation. Members of the Philippine delegation including Ambassador Rosario Manalo, former Special Representative of the Philippines to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for the term 2017-2020, have reportedly decried the resolution.
Ambassador Manalo allegedly accused Iceland and the countries supporting the resolution of hypocrisy and of interfering in Philippine affairs. Ambassador Manalo also allegedly called Philippine human rights groups treacherous and claimed they were paid to carry out human rights work.
Philwomen on ASEAN expresses grave concern over these pronouncements by Ambassador Manalo who is a well-known women’s human rights advocate. Her statements do not only potentially endanger human rights defenders in the Philippines and make them more vulnerable to harassment by state and non-state actors, they also constitute a clear attempt to cover up the very real human rights abuses happening in the country brought about by the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his war on the poor disguised as a Drug War that has seen thousands die from extrajudicial killings (EJKs), repression of press freedom, and freedom of speech both online and off through the weaponization of social media against critics.
Philwomen on ASEAN call on Ambassador Manalo to use her power and position to shed light on the human rights violations in the Philippines instead of deploring the Iceland-led resolution. We urge her to remember her roots as a defender of women’s human rights and to amplify the voices of the oppressed by calling on the Duterte government to #StopTheKillings. Instead of lawyering for the Duterte administration, Ambassador Manalo should take the side of the people and fight for justice and human rights for all Filipinos.
FMA is an active member of Philwomen on ASEAN, a Philippine network of more than 80 women’s groups and advocates advancing the rights of rural and urban poor women, indigenous women, women workers, migrants, lesbians, bisexual and trans women (LBT), women with disabilities (WWD), women living with HIV (WLHIV), and young women in Philwomen’s ASEAN work aims to strengthen women’s rights and engagement in ASEAN with the view of building and contributing to make ASEAN a people centered community that promotes, protects and fulfils human rights, women’s rights particularly.