European Commission president: PH human rights situation improving under Marcos admin

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 1) — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday said the European Union (EU) is seeing a better human rights situation in the Philippines under the Marcos administration.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source, Der Leyen said “there is much improvement” when it comes to human rights under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In February, some members of the European Parliament who visited the Philippines also noted that the current human rights situation in the country is "better" than it was during Duterte administration.

However, Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier said the situation has hardly changed as police and government agents continue to use unlawful force. 

Dahas, a program run by the University of the Philippines, said at least 90 people had been killed in "drug-related violence" since Marcos took office.

Marcos admitted in a forum in May that the Duterte government’s focus on fighting illegal drugs led to the abuses that put a spotlight on the Philippines’ human rights situation. 

According to United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, when he paid the chief executive a courtesy call in June 2022, Marcos committed to ensure “high level” of accountability for human rights issues and violations in the country.

Der Leyen said while there are still other important issues that have to be discussed, what is important for the EU is that the “environment is much better” and that there are steps being taken moving forward.

Der Leyen’s silence on drug war crimes a ‘great gap’

For HRW EU director Philippe Dam, Der Leyen not pushing for accountability for crimes related to the bloody “war on drugs” during her visit to the country is a "great gap in her performance.”

“Unfortunately, I'm not hearing this from the EU Commission's chair, particularly not even using the words ‘human rights’ when speaking with the Philippine president is a great concern to us,” Dam told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word.

Dam said Der Leyen could have urged the Philippine government to participate in the International Criminal Court's (ICC) probe into the Duterte drug war.

“An EU official should speak about human rights concerns and issues when they speak publicly on the side of other heads of state. This is the minimum that we can do, to expect that EU uses its leverage,” he stressed.

Dam also emphasized that human rights violations are not a good context for trade as the Philippines and the EU resume discussions on a free trade agreement.

The ICC will continue to investigate the Duterte administration's anti-drug campaign after the court's Appeals Chamber rejected the Philippine government's plea against the resumption of the probe.