March 3, 2021

Hon Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

E-mail: registry@ohchr.org

Condemn preparations for deadly purge of civilians in Cordillera Region, Murder of Witness in Panay, Philippines

Dear Excellency,

We write to alert you to the February 24, 2021, resolution by 47 senior police and government officials in the Cordillera Region calling for the notorious “Oplan Tokhang” to be deployed against “known left-leaning personalities in the government, media, and other entities” demonstrates that the Duterte government is brazenly defiant of its human rights obligations.

This Resolution was made at the same time that Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was telling the United Nations Human Rights Council that “the PH strongly emphasizes its legal and judicial system, its domestic accountability mechanisms are functioning as they should”.

‘Oplan Tokhang’ is the method used by police to kill tens of thousands of civilians in the mis-named ‘war on drugs’ over the last five years. This Resolution demonstrates that the Philippine state is planning to systematically kill its civilian critics. It is not ‘knock (on the door) and plead’, but kick in the door and shoot.

In the ‘war on drugs’, local government officials are required to provide lists of residents allegedly using or dealing drugs, or just ‘troublemakers’. These lists are provided to the police, who then eliminate the targets without any regard to due process. Local government officials switch off CCTV on the nights of these police raids. In the one case where two police were prosecuted for murder – that of 17 year-old Kian De Los Santos – in August 2017, the Barangay Captain had failed to switch off the CCTV.

The Cordillera officials decided that “this resolution be elevated to the Regional Peace and Order Council for their concurrence and adoption and convince LGUs to support this and be brought to the attention of all governors and Mayors in the Cordillera Region”.

While the bureaucratic machine tries to bring together all the elements for this program of civilian repression, there is time for the international community to say no, and they can say it now at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

When the media revealed this resolution last week, the Cordillera Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights, Atty Romel Daguimol, withdrew his signature, declaring that the resolution was in conflict with CHR policy. “We continue to stand that activism is not a crime. People should be free to express legitimate dissent and grievances for the government to act on.”

The other 46 police and other government officials must likewise withdraw their signatures.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines strongly supports the many statements coming from media organisations, the National Union of Journalists, the Karapatan Alliance for Peoples Rights, and members of Congress who condemned the resolution, and who uphold the basic democratic and human rights of the people despite the massive threats they have to endure under the Duterte government.

Witness to Tumandok massacre murdered

ICHRP condemns the political killing of Julie Catamin, a community hero on Panay, Western Visayas, in the Philippines, who was a star witness in the defence of four of the sixteen Tumandok leaders facing weapons and explosives charges following their arrest on December 30, 2020.

The defence of the sixteen is being organised by the Catholic Diocese of Jaro Social Action Center.

Julie Catamin, aged 49, is LGBTI and the Barangay Captain of Bgy Roosevelt, in Tapaz. While they were riding home on their motorcycle at 8.45am on Sunday February 28, 2021, they were shot by tandem riders of another motorcycle. This is a notorious method of state political killing in the Philippines. Severely wounded, Julie died later that day in hospital.

In a December 30 post on their Facebook page, Catamin accused the police who arrested four residents of their village of planting firearms and explosives. “They were arrested and handcuffed. Bullets and firearms were planted and their houses were destroyed. Where is justice? I am appealing for help from any government agency that can help me,” Catamin said in their post. Instead, government agencies killed them.

On February 25, 2021, Catamin was invited by a Lt Estrada to visit the headquarters of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Calinog, Iloilo. The military said that they knew about the residents of Brgy Roosevelt asking Bayan Muna for help, along with lawyers and Church institutions, which the military alleged are being used by the New People’s Army. Because of this, Lt. Estrada threatened that events similar to the mass arrests on December 30 could also happen to Catamin’s community.

This political killing is calculated to silence any other witness who would dispute police and military claims about the deadly events of December 30, 2020, of which we wrote to you on January 29, 2021.

While Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was asserting to the United Nations Human Rights Council last week that Philippine domestic remedies work to uphold the human rights of its citizens, security forces in Panay were organizing the murder of Julie Catamin.

The Tumandok communities have been opposing the Jalaur River Mega Dam project, funded by the South Korean Exim Bank and to be built by Daewoo S&E, since 2011. This is the underlying cause of the violent repression of the Tumandok communities.

We urge your Office to condemn these recent developments, which demonstrate an intensified state repression in the Philippines, the opposite of a state whose domestic institutions uphold human rights.

Sincerely,

Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council,

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

Cc: Mr Antonio Guterres, United Nations; UN Special Rapporteur on EJK; DFAT Desk; Senator Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Senator Penny Wong; Senator Janet Rice, Andrew Wilkie MHR; Julia Dean; Ret Gen Carlito G Galvez Jr, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Ret Maj Gen Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary, Dept of Defence; Mr Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice; Mr. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights; KARAPATAN.