April 8, 2021
We have come together today to express our alarm, frustration and indignation at the ongoing human rights crisis in the Philippines.
As the extrajudicial killing, illegal arrests and harassment of human and environmental rights defenders, development workers, trade unionists, lawyers, judges, journalists and opposition politicians continue unabated, we are living in fear for the safety of our friends and colleagues in the Philippines, knowing that the death threats that many of them are regularly receiving are by no means empty ones.
Someone recently remarked that Facebook is beginning to resemble an obituary column. Indeed, tragically, in the past few months alone, we have met on several occasions online to express our grief and outrage at the killing of yet another activist, and to declare our solidarity with the victims of human rights violations and their families. Each time we were well aware that it would not be the last meeting of that kind as more of our friends had already been warned that “they would be next”.
By regularly labelling government critics and rights defenders as “terrorists” the President Duterte threatens them with death sentences. His blatant disrespect for human rights was shown once again when in early March he uttered his now notorious call to state forces to “Kill all the communists. Finish them. Don’t mind human rights!”. Shortly after this on 7 March, now referred to as “Bloody Sunday”, nine unarmed rights defenders were brutally murdered and six arrested in joint police and military operations in the Southern Tagalog Region. On 28 March a union leader, Dandy Miguel, was shot dead and several more activists were arrested.
The intensifying repression of the democratic opposition and rights defenders has been given a legal basis through legislation brought in by the Duterte government such as Order 70, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act.
We have deep concerns with regard to the rule of law and the judiciary in the Philippines. 61 lawyers have been killed since Duterte came to power in 2016, many of them in connection with their work of defending activists. We are particularly shocked at the killing of a key witness to the Tumandok massacre and the attempted murder of a lawyer representing people arrested on that occasion. Recently a judge was red-tagged for dropping trumped up charges against activists and there have been examples of local courts issuing search warrants that have led to gross human rights violations being perpetrated during the searches.
The Philippine Supreme Court strongly criticized the attacks on lawyers, saying “To assault the judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands”. We ask ourselves: if the lawyers have been eliminated – either killed or so intimidated that they no longer dare to represent their clients – who will defend the defenders of human rights?
In view of this distressing and unacceptable way in which the Duterte administration is trampling on human rights we:
• Urge the government of the Philippines to end the escalating human rights violations and the climate of impunity that encourages these atrocities,
• Amplify the calls of civil society in the Philippines for the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC
• Call for the implementation of the recommendations of the 2020 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, to the 44th session of the UNHRC, including international accountability mechanisms such as the establishment of an independent investigation into the situation of human rights in the Philippines.
•Support global civil society initiatives such as the ongoing Investigate PH campaign, which aims to support the Bachelet report by providing updated information on human rights violations in the Philippines.
•Hope the Philippine Congress would make legislation for the protection of human rights defenders a priority.
Entraide et Fraternité
Friends of the Earth Europe
Progress Lawyers Network
UPB (UGNAYANG PILIPINO SA BELGIUM) – LINK OF FILIPINOS IN BELGIUM
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESKpublicinfo@karapatan.org