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My Lords, my 45 year-old half-niece, Aurora Moynihan, lay dead on a sidewalk in Manila, her body riddled with multiple gunshot wounds. Her killers, a single cell of the many death squads—including, it is alleged, off-duty Filipino policemen—left her body propped in a slumped seated position on the pavement. Around her neck they had hung a scribbled handwritten sign reading, “Pusher to the celebrities, you’re next”, before driving off off in search of more victims. She had a right to life and a right to accountability before the courts. This happened in the early hours of Sunday morning,
There is free reign to kill in the streets, free reign to settle unrelated scores and free reign to destroy any semblance of the rule of law in the Philippines. I do not ask my noble friend the Minister to intervene solely on Aurora’s behalf. Dialogue and tough, harsh words, with appropriate diplomatic initiatives, as proposed by my noble friend Lady Anelay, will one day help resolve this crisis. It has, after all, been in the making since Alf Dubs MP—as he was then—and I headed to Mindanao in September 1983, a two-man delegation on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, to write our report on the serious human rights violations occurring in the Philippines.
Action is now needed by our Government because this form of so-called government by Duterte is unacceptable. But far more importantly, I ask my colleagues in this House, every time they walk through Peers’ Entrance, to reflect on the need to do these things: to nurture and strengthen the institutional framework of democracy—a system of government under increasing threat around the world; to use our influence, however limited that may be; to take every opportunity to challenge the rising forces of nationalism and populism; to react to the pervasive power of social media and fake news, which can shake the foundations of the rule of law, as they do in the Philippines; and to recognise that we live in a world where leaders are operating outside the rules, from Salisbury in Wiltshire to the streets of Manila, where the right to life is under threat, where powerful countries prop up corrupt regimes in Africa and where, if we do not react, we leave a desolate landscape behind us.
There is nothing more important to us than upholding the rule of law and the checks and balances which provide essential protection for all our human rights and from which democratic institutions and the rule of law are nurtured. Aurora had British as well as Filipino nationality. Her father, my half-brother, for all his faults, once sat and spoke frequently in your Lordships’ House. The wracked body of a beautiful woman in her prime has become a symbol of the necessity of constraining power and of the right to life, of the need to fight the rising forces of corrupt systems of abusive government practised in the guise of populism, with its lack of governance and failure to provide a central role for an independent judiciary. No one, including Duterte, should be above the law. No leader should override the rule of law, with vigilantes emptying bullet chambers at will as they continue to do, night by night, throughout the Philippines.