Human Rights Day Statement:
New Zealand Solidarity Groups Call for Release of Political Prisoners and End to Extrajudicial Killings
10 December 2016

As long time supporters of the struggle for genuine democracy and peace in the Philippines we are pleased to see some positive change under the Duterte Administration.
It is great to see mining companies breaching Philippine environmental law are finally being shut down and the Philippine government asserting an independent foreign policy from the United States.  We are also pleased Duterte has reopened peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and seeks a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict.
Unfortunately there have been some concerning developments for human rights in recent months.
Oplan Tokhang, the Duterte Administration’s war on drugs, is giving the Philippine National Police impunity to shoot drug suspects, without first attempting arrest.
Thousands of people, mostly in urban poor communities, have been killed by the state or vigilante groups.  We are very concerned to hear of cases of mistaken identity, in which innocent people with no connection to the drug trade and even children have been killed.
Drug war used as cover to attack activists
The Philippine security forces have long used the counterinsurgency against the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) as an excuse to attack activist groups.  Now Karapatan and other leading human rights groups have documented several cases of state and vigilante forces using the drug war as a front to arrest activists on trumped up charges or even violently attack them.
In October a group of farmer activists, resisting land grabbing in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, were arrested on drug charges, allegedly after police officers planted evidence on them.
On December 5th Joel Lising, a leader of the Tri-Wheels Organization para sa Kabuhayan (PATOK), was gunned down in Tondo, Manila during the early hours of the morning.
Oplan Tokhang promotes lawlessness and can be used as a convenient cover to attack activists from the people’s movement.
Political prisoners
The plight of the 400 political prisoners in jails across the Philippines is also cause for great concern.
Some of these prisoners are elderly or facing poor health and should be released immediately on humanitarian grounds.  This will ensure there is no repeat scenario like the recent tragic death of Bernabe Ocasla, who died of a stroke in custody on November 25.
Even for those political prisoners in good health a general release is the right thing to do.  Many of these prisoners were arrested on trumped up charges under the Arroyo and Aquino Administrations. Under these Administrations the authorities filed false charges to get activists out of action.
For the sake of justice and supporting the peace talks we urge President Duterte to release all political prisoners.  We also call for those responsible for extrajudicial killings be prosecuted and for the drug war not to be used as a front to attack activists.

Cameron Walker
Auckland Philippines Solidarity

Murray Horton
Philippine Solidarity Network of Aotearoa

Rod Prosser
Wellington Kiwi Pinoy