The time for quiet diplomacy with Duterte regime is over.

People on street hold up banners protesting human rights abuses in the Philippines
Credit: National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Published On: March 24, 2021

The United Church of Canada joined with 65 Canadian civil society organizations and numerous prominent individuals in a March 16 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying the time for quiet diplomacy with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime is over. Canada must speak up loudly against the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines. 

The joint letter to the prime minister was precipitated by the “Bloody Sunday” massacre on March 7, 2021, of nine human rights defenders in the Philippines that directly impacted United Church partners.

Despite a landmark June 2020 report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Philippine rights situation that details widespread and systematic human rights violations by the Philippine government, including the killing of human rights defenders, violence and harassment against rights defenders in the Philippines have only intensified.

The Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu, the United Church’s Global Partnership Program Coordinator responsible for relationships with Mission & Service partners in the Philippines, stated that “The continued human rights abuses in the Philippines and recent Blood Sunday killings highlight the need for an immediate international investigative mechanism to hold perpetrators of human rights violations in the Philippines accountable and to deliver justice to victims.”

One such mechanism is INVESTIGATE PH, an independent international investigation of the human rights situation in the Philippines being conducted by people’s organizations and civil society from around the world. The United Church is represented in this initiative through the Rev. Michael Blair, General Secretary, General Council, who is one of 11 INVESTIGATE PH Commissioners. INVESTIGATE PH’s Initial Report, released March 15, is the first of a series of reports that will be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council 48th Session in September 2021.

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