Philippines: Global solidarity with Filipino human rights defenders

05/12/2022
Statement
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APWLD

We, the undersigned organisations, express our utmost concern over the ongoing criminalization of ten human rights defenders and members of Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in retaliation for their legitimate human rights work.

Elisa Tita Lubi, Karapatan Chairperson; Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General; Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General; Gabriela Krista Dalena, Karapatan Treasurer; Edita Burgos; Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan National Council members; Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Gabriela Chairperson; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela Secretary General; and Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP member, are facing trial before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 on malicious and trumped-up charge of “perjury” in retaliation for their actions seeking legal protection for human rights defenders. The week of January 2, 2023 the verdict will be handed down. If convicted, they could face up to four months or up to more than two years of imprisonment.

On May 6, 2019, due to the alarming increase in violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines, the above-mentioned human rights defenders from Karapatan, Gabriela, and the RMP filed a petition for the writ of amparo (protection order) and habeas data (access to information) before the Supreme Court, seeking protection against threats, attacks, and harassment by government officials. However, the Philippine Court of Appeals denied their petition in June 2019.

Following the rejection of the petition, the authorities responded with retaliatory measures against the 10 human rights defenders. On July 2, 2019, then-National Security Adviser General Hermogenes Esperon, who was named in the petition, lodged a complaint alleging that the 10 defendants had committed “perjury” by stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental organisation at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition they filed before the Supreme Court. While the perjury complaint was initially dismissed for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence”, in February 2020, the Quezon City prosecutor sustained a motion for reconsideration filed by the National Security Adviser and found probable cause to charge the 10 human rights defenders with “perjury”. The charges against the 10 human rights defenders have been widely condemned by regional and global civil society organisations as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Since the “perjury” charges were filed, the Department of Justice has charged at least 16 people, including nuns, linked to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines with financing terrorism under Section 8(ii) of Republic Act 10168 or anti-terrorism financing act.

In the Philippines, human rights defenders continue to face attacks, killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and stigmatisation campaigns by State agents, proxies, supporters and enablers. Since June 2016, when President Duterte took power, a climate of impunity for attacks against human rights defenders worsened. The killings of defenders have rarely been investigated, which increases the vulnerability of those who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in July 2020, further compounded the precarious situation for human rights defenders by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism. The grave human rights situation in the Philippines including the ongoing onslaught facing human rights defenders has resulted in expressions of grave concern from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2020 and more recently a number of Members of the European Parliament. Similarly, in April 2020, 9 UN human rights experts expressed their concern regarding the killings, threats, detentions and criminalization of human rights defenders in the Philippines. Both the OHCHR and the UN human rights experts recommended establishing an international, independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines.

We call on the new President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to distance himself from the previous administration, and firmly commit to respecting the right to defend human rights. President Marcos Jr. should cease the threats and attacks against rights defenders and ensure the protection of their rights, including the rights to life, due process, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. We urge the authorities to put an immediate end to the judicial harassment against Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Joan May Salvador, and Sr. Elenita Belardo. Similarly, we call on the authorities to rescind the Anti-Terrorism Act and adopt the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

We are inspired by the work, courage and commitment of these human rights defenders, and stand in solidarity with all of them.

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  • Co-signatories

    Organisations

    1. ACAT – Germany
    2. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM) - Luxembourg
    3. ALTSEAN – Burma
    4. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
    5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    6. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
    7. Associació Catalana per la Pau – Catalonia/Spain
    8. AWID – International
    9. Banglar Manabadhikar Surakhsa Mancha (MASUM) – India
    10. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) – International
    11. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights – Canada
    12. Capital Punishment Justice Project – Australia
    13. Centre for Philippine Concerns - Canada
    14. Changement Social Bénin – Benin
    15. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) – Mexico
    16. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation – International
    17. Environmental Defender Law Center – United States
    18. ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - International
    19. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany
    20. Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec (PINAY) – Canada
    21. Front Line Defenders – International
    22. Fundación Promoción Humana – Argentina
    23. Greek Helsinki Monitor – Greece
    24. Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) – India
    25. Human Rights First - International
    26. Human Rights Watch – International
    27. IBON International
    28. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – International
    29. ICHRP Canada
    30. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    31. International League of People’s Struggle - Canada
    32. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) – International
    33. Judicial Reform Foundation – Taiwan
    34. KAIROS Canada
    35. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l’Homme (VSV) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
    36. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
    37. Lok Shakti Abhiyan – India
    38. London Mining Network – United Kingdom
    39. Malaya Movement – Canada
    40. Malaya Movement – United States
    41. Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras)
    42. Migrante - Canada
    43. Narasha Community Development Group – Kenya
    44. National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Staff (SNAPAP) – Algeria
    45. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement – Sri Lanka
    46. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – United States
    47. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement – Netherlands
    48. Odhikar – Bangladesh
    49. ONG Construisons Ensemble le Monde – Democratic Republic of the Congo
    50. Project South – United States
    51. Public Service Alliance of Canada - Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada – Canada
    52. Rural People’s Sangam – India
    53. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – International
    54. SOHRAM-CASRA – Turkey
    55. Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles (SFVS) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
    56. Tapol – Indonesia
    57. The Open University – United Kingdom
    58. The Uplands Center – United States
    59. United Church of Canada – Canada
    60. Universidad Nacional José Faustino Sánchez Carrión - Huacho – Peru
    61. Viva Salud – Belgium
    62. Women of Diverse Origins - Canada
    63. Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) – International
    64. Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
    65. World Organisation Against Torture, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

    Individuals:

    1. Bronwyn Dudley
    2. Emile Kinley-Gauthier
    3. Florfina Marcelino

  • Member organisations - Philippines
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