Press Release
3 July 2020

Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, ‪+639173162831‬
Karapatan Public Information Desk, ‪+639189790580

Nine UN Special Procedures express “extremely serious” concern on violations vs rights defenders in PH

In a recently published communication to the Philippine government, nine United Nations (UN) Special Procedures expressed their “extremely serious concern” on allegations of violations against human rights defenders in the Philippines.

The communication to the government was sent on April 15, 2020 by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances Luciano Hazan, Vice Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Leigh Toomey, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clément Voule, former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Dubravka Šimonović, and Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls Meskerem Techane. They published the said communication on the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), sixty days after no reply was given by the Philippine government.

The special procedures outlined the reports received on extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, threats of death and sexual violence, raids of offices, and reprisals mainly against Karapatan human rights workers, along with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela. Among the incidents reported to the special procedures are the killing of Karapatan workers Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala, arbitrary arrests of Karapatan rights workers Alexander Abinguna and Engr. Jennefer Aguhob and other activists whose offices were raided in Tacloban City in February 2020, and the retaliatory suit against Karapatan officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Edita Burgos and four others.

“While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of the information received, we express extremely serious concern at the continued allegations of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, threats of death and sexual violence against human rights defenders, some of which allegedly emanate from law enforcement agencies. We are also gravely concerned that these alleged acts appear to have been in retaliation for their human rights activities including their engagement with the UN Human Rights Council, and that despite repeated requests, including through the legal system, no protection has been provided to these persons,” they stated.

Furthermore, the special procedures said that “despite repeated communications to Your Excellency’s Government raising these issues, we continue to receive information that, rather than improving, the situation of human rights defenders in the Philippines continues to deteriorate.”

They also reiterated serious concerns on the terrorist-labelling of human rights defenders, threats of high-level officials against human rights organisations, and the worrying broader trend of red-tagging, reminding the government of UN Security Council resolutions urging states to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security should be in compliance to their obligations under international law and should not hinder the work of human rights defenders. The Philippine government was also reminded of their obligations under numerous international human rights conventions that it ratified.

“We believe that indeed that the concerns expressed in this letter, and which are of a similar nature as those previously shared, warrant immediate attention on the part of the Government to protect the rights of these individuals and prevent the recurrence of further violations. We also believe that this is a matter of public interest, and that the wider public should be alerted to the human rights implications of these allegations. Any public expression on our part would indicate that we have been repeatedly in contact with Your Excellency’s Government to clarify the issues in question,” they ended. ###

* You may find the link to the said communication at the Communications Report database of the OHCHR:


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.