Philippines: Threats, harassment, intimidation and surveillance against Ms. Honey May Suazo

05/08/2015
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about ongoing threats, harassment, intimidation and surveillance suffered by Ms. Honey May Suazo, Secretary General of the Southern Mindanao Regional Chapter of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan). Ms. Suazo has undertaken several fact-finding missions mostly in highly militarised communities and on several occasions has openly denounced the human rights violations committed by military troops in the Southern Mindanao Region.

New information:

According to the information received, on July 11, 2015, Ms. Suazo learnt that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) had filed a trumped up criminal case before the City Prosecutor’s Office on May 12, 2015, against her and 15 other leaders of civil society organisations supporting individuals forced to flee their homes due to military presence in the region of Talaingod, Davao del Norte Province.

Ms. Suazo has been subjected in the past to harassment, threats and surveillance due to her activities as a human right defender.

On June 19, 2015, another Karapatan staff member, Ms. Leonora Ricafort, had called Ms. Suazo to warn her not to go to the office due to the presence of three men monitoring the premises.

Since then, Ms. Suazo has not returned to the Karapatan office, nor to her home.

Earlier this year, on February 7, Ms. Suazo and four other human rights defenders were coming back from a meeting about human rights violations perpetrated against evacuees from Talaingod, when they realised that a man was following them on a motorcycle. The five human rights defenders immediately tried to call a taxi, while the man kept standing on his motorcycle just one meter away from them, staring at Ms. Suazo and apparently holding something in the pocket of his jacket.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern over the ongoing acts of harassment and surveillance faced by members of the Karapatan office in Southern Mindanao Region from the military. The latter have even been labelled by the military as “enemies of the state” and “front organisations of the communists”, in a context of intensification of military operations, especially in Mindanao, where 60% of troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines are deployed under the counter-insurgency programme Oplan Bayanihan.

The Observatory calls upon the Philippine authorities to to immediately put an end to any form of harassment against the members of Karapatan, to guarantee in all circumstances their physical and psychological integrity and to conduct a swift, thorough and impartial investigation on the above-mentioned acts.

Background information:

Over the past months, several human rights workers of the Southern Mindanao Regional Chapter of Karapatan, as well as several peasant leaders and their families in Paquibato District, Davao City, and Bukidnon Province, Mindanao, who had sought shelter in the Karapatan office, have suffered surveillance, threats and harassment.

The human rights defenders targeted include: Karapatan staff members Ms. Edessa Sandra Campos and Ms. Leonora Ricafort; Ms. Ricafort’s son; peasant leaders, Ms.Aida Sanduman-Seisa, Secretary General of Paquibato District Peasants Alliance (PADIPA), Mr. Eduardo Regidor, acting Chairperson of PADIPA, and his three sons; and Mr. Primjun Oblianda-Cabatuan and Ms. Roselyn Tausa, both members of PADIPA.

On April 26, 2015, at 10 a.m., several men wearing light fatigue shirt and shorts, and who appeared to be soldiers, showed up in the neighbourhood of the Karapatan office in Davao City. The men walked back and forth on the roadand stood in front of the building trying to look through the gate at the people inside. Oneof them was heard relaying over the phone to an unknown interlocutor the exact location of the NGO’s office and of the peasant leaders who had sought refuge there.

Moreover, when Mr. Eduardo Regidor left the office with his three sons, three men armed with 45 calibre pistols followed them. One of the men, the same one that made the phone call, told him “Aha, dito lang pala kayo nagtatago (So, you are hiding here)”. Alarmed by the man’s statement, Mr. Eduardo and his sons quickly got into a taxi, and instructed the driver to speed up. The three armed men then tailed the taxi on their motorcycles, but eventually lost track of it.

On April 27, sometime after 7 p.m., Mr. Eduardo Regidor arrived at the Karapatan office. A few minutes later, three men went to the office’s gate and attempted to get inside. One of the men carried with him something wrapped with a towel, possibly a gun. When asked, they refused to identify themselves. When those inside the Karapatan office did not open the gate, one of the men pushed the gate and the two other men attempted to climb the concrete wall to get inside the compound. One of the men was the same person who had been conducting surveillance outside the Karapatan office the day before.

The men’s attempts to barge into the Karapatan office stopped only when a Karapatan staff member called the police for assistance and members of the media. After interviews with both the media and the police, the police brought the Karapatan staff members to the San Pedro Police Station to file a report of the incident.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities in the Philippines, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Honey May Suazo and all members of Karapatan, as well as of all human rights defenders in the Philippines;

ii. Order an immediate, thorough, transparent, effective and impartial investigation into the above-mentioned facts in order to identify all those responsible;

iii. Put an end to any kind of harassment against members of Karapatan and all human rights defenders in the Philippines, and in general against all defenders who work for the protection of land rights and human rights in Philippines;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially regarding the following Articles:

- Article 1: everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels;
- Article 12.2: the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights [...];

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

Addresses:

· H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Republic of the Philippines, New Executive Building,Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila 1005, Philippines.Fax: +63 2 736 1010, Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80; Email:corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph;
· Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Visayas Avenue,Diliman, 1100 Quezon City,Philippines,Fax: +63 2 920 4301,Tel: +63 2 920 4352; +63 2 926 2688; +632 926 2535; +63 2 925 8275,Email: osec@denr.gov.ph
· Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights, SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines.Fax: +632 929 0102. Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com / mtm_rodulfo@yahoo.com;
· Hon.Vicente Tito Castelo Sotto III,Senate President, Office of the Senate,Office of the Senate Secretary, Hon. Emma L. Reyes, 6thflr. Senate of the Philippines, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City, Tel: +63 2 552-6601 loc. 6129/23 & 24 / +63 2 552-6676, Email: osec@senate.gov.ph;
· Hon. Leila de Lima, Secretary, Department of Justice (DOJ), DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura, Ermita, Manila 1000, Fax: +632 523 9548, Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph / lmdelima.doj@gmail.com
· Hon. Jose Midas Marquez, Court Administrator, Supreme Court of the Philippines, 3rdflr., New Supreme Court Bldg., Annex, Padre Faura St., Ermita 1000, Manila, Tel: +63 2 522 590 to 94, Fax: +63 2 526 8129, Email: pio@supremecourt.gov.ph / sc.judiciary@gov.ph;
· Police Director General Alan LA Madrid Purisima,Chief, Philippine National Police, Camp General Rafael Crame, Quezon City, Philippines, Fax: +63 2 724 8763/ +63 2 723 0401, Tel: + 63 2 726 4361/4366/8763, Email:feedback@pnp.gov.ph;
· Hon. Emilio Gonzalez, Deputy Ombusdman, Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military And other Law Enforcement Offices, 3rdflr., Ombudsman Bldg., Agham Road, Diliman, 1004 Quezon City, Fax: +63 2 926 8747, Tel: +63 2 926 9032;
· H.E.Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador,Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, 47 Avenue Blanc, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 716 19 32, Email: geneva.pm@dfa.gov.ph;
· Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, 297 Avenue Moliere, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 340 33 77 / 2 340 33 78, Fax: +32 2 345 64 25.

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Philippines in your respective country.

***
Geneva-Paris, August 5, 2015

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

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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