To galvanize the international community on the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines, the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted a photo exhibit on 4-5 May.
The exhibit features prize-winning photos from Filipino journalists on the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the Duterte government. It focuses also on the “Free Our Sisters, Free Ourselves” campaign led by the GABRIELA organisation. The event was organized by Philippines UPR Watch, a delegation of human rights defenders and advocates that engages in the Universal Periodic Review process of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Organizers of the exhibit explained the exhibit has no title because there are no words to describe the inhumanity being witnessed and relentlessly portrayed.
During the opening, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said: “We stand for those who are oppressed. We search for the truth, we let the truth speak to us and we share it to the world.”
Rev. Jerome C. Baris, national program coordinator for Justice, Peace and Human Rights, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) led the opening prayer: “Almighty God of life and history, we praise and thank for your everlasting presence that gathered us together into this place and time, to proclaim your truth, justice and peace, amidst the challenging realities of social injustices and un-peace in the Philippines resulting in a grave spate of the sanctity of human life, known in the rampant human rights violations in the past recent years now, exhibited in part, through these photos before us.”
Ephraim Cortez, secretary general, National Union of Lawyers in the Philippines and corporate secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said: “It is of utmost concern for us that despite the UPR, human rights violations still occur in the Philippines, and are in fact worsening. What is even graver is the fact that both the Aquino and the Duterte administrations are dismissive of the accusations that human rights violations were, and are, being committed under their watch.”
Sharon Cabusao-Silva, spokesperson for the “Free Our Sisters, Free Ourselves” campaign, was detained in June 2015 for one year and two months. She shared: “As of today, there are over 470 political prisoners, among which are 34 women. I shared with them their cells, their sorrows and their few joys”. She called the international community to support prisoners with letters and donations, and to pray for activists who are abducted and tortured for their beliefs.
Tveit concluded by calling for a minute of silence for all the victims: “Sisters and brothers from the Philippines, we are following your work and we are supporting you in raising one voice for justice, therefore one voice for peace”.