HomeNewsSoutheast Asian parliamentarians call on President Marcos to prioritize human rights

Southeast Asian parliamentarians call on President Marcos to prioritize human rights

APHR said it will be "closely monitoring" the policies of President Marcos and hold him and his government accountable

Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia called on Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who was sworn into office on Thursday, June 30, to respect human rights and restore rule of law and democracy in the country.

“We believe that democratic institutions in the Philippines need to be strengthened and respect for human rights restored, and that should be the priority of the new administration,” said Charles Santiago, member of parliament from Malaysia and chairperson of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

He said the regional organization of legislators “will be closely monitoring the policies of President Marcos, and we are ready to work with civil society and human rights organizations in the Philippines to hold him and his government accountable.”

In a statement issued following the May 9 Philippine polls, APHR said the election of Marcos as president and Sara Duterte, daughter of former president Rodrigo Duterte, as vice president “did not bode well for the restoration of rule of law and respect for human rights in the country.”

“The Marcos family has never acknowledged the atrocities committed during the dictatorship of their patriarch, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who was ousted from power by a massive popular uprising in 1986,” read an APHR statement.

Duterte has been accused of human rights violations since his tenure as Mayor in Davao City in the southern Philippines and after being elected president with thousands of Filipinos killed in his “war on drugs.”

The International Criminal Court has started a preliminary investigation on Duterte for possible crimes against humanity brought about by his drug war.

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“We hope to be proven wrong and that President Marcos Jr. will put an end to this climate of impunity and chart a different course of action that upholds human rights, press freedom, and the rule of law in the Philippines,” said Santiago.

He said “it is high time” that the Philippines “re-emerges” as the leader on democracy and human rights in the region “that it once was.”

APHR urged Marcos to appoint qualified, credible, and independent members of the Commission on Human Rights through a “transparent and consultative process” as first steps to show his commitment to human rights.

The CHR is an independent body mandated under the 1987 Philippine Constitution to investigate human rights violations in the country. The president appoints its members for a fixed term of seven years. The current appointees ended their term in May 2022.

The group also called for the immediate release of jailed Senator Leila de Lima.

Senator Leila de Lima was arrested in February 2017, shortly after she had launched a Senate investigation on the alleged extrajudicial killings committed as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs.” She has been detained for more than five years already.

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