Philippines: Simultaneous raids on the houses of six trade unionists and a journalist and subsequent arbitrary arrest

23/12/2020
Urgent Appeal

PHL 006 / 1220 / OBS 141
Raids / Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
The Philippines
December 23, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in The Philippines.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Karapatan - the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights - about the simultaneous raids on the houses of six trade union organisers and a journalist and their subsequent arbitrary arrest in Metro Manila on trumped-up charges.

On December 10, 2020, police officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) simultaneously raided the houses of Dennise Velasco, member of Defend Jobs Philippines, Romina Astudillo, Deputy Secretary-General of the trade union Kilusang Mayo Uno(KMU)-Metro Manila, Mark Ryan Cruz, member of the Regional Executive Committee of KMU-Metro Manila, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., member of KMU-Metro Manila, Joel Demate, member of Solidarity of Labour Rights and Welfare (SOLAR), Rodrigo Esparago, member of the trade union Sandigang Manggagawa sa Quezon City (SMQC),andjournalist Lady Ann Salem, editor of Manila Today and Communications Officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), based on a search warrant issued by Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert from Branch 89 of Quezon City Regional Trial Court. They all belong to groups that were previously red-tagged, i.e. labelled as “communists” or “terrorists”.

The seven human rights defenders were subsequently arrested on charges of “illegal possession of firearms and explosives”, which police claimed were seized during the raids. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Joel Demate remains detained in the headquarters of Manila Police District; Lady Ann Salem, Rodrigo Esparago, Mark Ryan Cruz, Romina Astudillo and Jaymie Gregorio Jr. in Camp Rafael T. Cramepolice station, Quezon City; and Dennise Velasco in Camp Karingal police station, Quezon City. If convicted, they could face from six to 12 years’ imprisonment.

The Observatory recalls that since President Duterte took power in June 2016, human rights defenders have faced relentless vilification and red-tagging, and have been repeatedly subjected to trumped-up charges and lengthy pre-trial arbitrary detention, with the aim to discredit their legitimate work and to silence all critical voices.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Joel Demate, Rodrigo Esparago and Lady Ann Salem,as it seems to only aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory urges the Philippines authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the above-mentioned human rights defenders and to put an end to all acts of harassment against them, including at the judicial level.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Philippines asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in the country, including Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Joel Demate, Rodrigo Esparago and Lady Ann Salem;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Joel Demate, Rodrigo Esparago and Lady Ann Salem, as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the Philippines, since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing her for her human rights activities;

iii. Guarantee their unhindered access to a lawyer of their choosing and their family members;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment against Dennise Velasco, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Jaymie Gregorio Jr., Joel Demate, Rodrigo Esparago and Lady Ann Salem andall human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

Addresses:

· Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Email: op@president.gov.ph or send a message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/;
· Mr. Teodoro Locsin Jr, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Email: osec@dfa.gov.ph;
· Hon. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice of the Philippines, Email: communications@doj.gov.ph;
· Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com;
· Police General Oscar Albayalde, Chief, Philippine National Police, Email: pnpo.adm1n@gmail.com; ocpnp@pnp.gov.ph; srocpnp@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission@genevapm.ph;
· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, Email: brusselspe@gmail.com .

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines in your respective countries.

***
Geneva-Paris, December 23, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
· Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18

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