Philippines: Arbitrary arrest of 2 Karapatan members & 4 other HRDs in Western Mindanao and Eastern Visayas

07/02/2020
Urgent Appeal

PHL 001 / 0220 / OBS 011
Arbitrary arrest /
Judicial harassment
The Philippines
February 7, 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.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Karapatan - the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights - about the arbitrary arrest of two of its members in Western Mindanao and Eastern Visayas respectively, as well as four other human rights defenders in Eastern Visayas.

According to the information received, on February 5, 2020, Ms. Jennefer Aguhob, Karapatan National Council member in Western Mindanao, was arrested based on a warrant for charges of murder issued on July 26, 2019 by Judge Victoriano Lacaya, from Branch 9 of the Regional Trial Court in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte Province. Prior to her arrest, Ms. Aguhob had not been informed that such a complaint had been filed against her.

At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Ms. Aguhob remained detained at the Oroquieta City police station in Misamis Occidental Province.

Moreover, on February 7, 2020, between 1:00am and 2:30am, the office of Karapatan’s chapter in Region 8, Tacloban City, the provincial capital of Leyte, which it shares with the political party Bayan and the peasants’ organisation SAGUPA, was raided by Philippine National Police (PNP) officers led by Lt. Col. Pedere. During the raid, Mr. Alexander Philip Abinguna, Karapatan Council member in Eastern Visayas, was arrested along with Ms. Mira Legion, a member of Bayan Eastern Visayas and a former student leader at University of the Philippines Tacloban, and Ms. Marissa Cabaljao, Spokesperson of People’s Surge Network, an organisation that provides support to disaster survivors, and her one-year old baby.

At the same time, a raid was being conducted in the staff house of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Eastern Visayas and Eastern Vista, an alternative media organisation, in Tacloban City, during which Ms. Frenchie Mae Cumpio, a journalist and Executive Director of Eastern Vista, and Ms. Mariell Domanquill, a staff member of RMP Eastern Visayas, were arrested. All were charged with “illegal possession of firearms” and remain detained at the Palo PNP station.

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 [1].

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of the above-mentioned human rights defenders as it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities, and urges the Philippines authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and all other human rights defenders who are arbitrarily detained in the country, as well as to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines, urging them to:
 
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Jennefer Aguhob, Mr. Alexander Philip Abinguna, Ms. Mira Legion, Ms. Marissa Cabaljao, Ms. Frenchie Mae Cumpio, and Ms. Mariell Domanquill, as well as of all human rights defenders in the Philippines;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Jennefer Aguhob, Mr. Alexander Philip Abinguna, Ms. Mira Legion, Ms. Marissa Cabaljao, Ms. Frenchie Mae Cumpio and Ms. Mariell Domanquill, 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 them for their 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 - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Jennefer Aguhob, Mr. Alexander Philip Abinguna, Ms. Mira Legion, Ms. Marissa Cabaljao, Ms. Frenchie Mae Cumpio and Ms. Mariell Domanquill, as well as all other human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Conform to the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with Articles 1 and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Philippines.

Addresses:

· Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Fax: +632 742-1641 / 929-3968, 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, Fax: (+632) 521-1614, Email: communications@doj.gov.ph;
· Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Fax: +632 929 0102, Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com;
· Police General Oscar Albayalde, Chief, Philippine National Police, National Headquarters Building, Camp BGen Rafael Crame, Quezon City, 1111 Philippines. Fax: +632 724 8749 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, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32 Email: mission@genevapm.ph;
· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 02 345 64 25, Email: brusselspe@gmail.com.

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines located in your country.

***
Geneva-Paris, February 7, 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 and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] For more information, see Observatory Press Release, May 24, 2019 and Observation Mission Report, I’ll kill you along with drug addicts - President Duterte’s war on human rights defenders in the Philippines, February 28, 2019.

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