EANP Letter to Congress on Duterte Terrorist List

We of the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP) are deeply troubled by the “terrorist list” of 600 individuals recently issued by President Duterte. It includes human rights defenders, Catholic priests, drug war dissenters, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, herself an advocate for the rights of Philippine indig- enous people. This action by the Duterte Administration puts at risk the lives of those on the list, they have been tagged by the Philippine Government as “communist rebels”. In support of this action, the Philippine Department of Justice submitted the list to a Manila court for processing of arrest warrants and filing of cases. By doing so, dissent and defense of human rights have been criminalized and are now life-threatening commitments.

We agree with the response issued by Human Rights Watch which described the move by the Department of Justice as a threat to the lives of human rights defenders and dissenters.

“The Philippine government is putting at grave risk more than 600 people – among them a Unit- ed Nations human rights expert and dozens of leftist activists – by labeling them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA)”. HRW Dispatches, March 8 2018.

The “terror list” was followed by President Duterte signing a bill that restores subpoena power to the Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and two of his assistants, an action protested
by human rights groups expressing fears that this law could lead to greater impunity by the PNP and more drug war killings. Human Rights Watch noted that, “At a time when the PNP has been committing widespread human rights violations in the war on drugs, granting the police further
powers to act without judicial authorization is a recipe for disaster”. HRW Dispatches, March 10,
2018.

State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings in the Philippines have been targeting 3 categories of vic- tims since President Duterte came to power in June of 2016.  The terror list and the subpoena power will only heighten the impunity with which they have occurred:

Persons killed in War on Drugs. More than 4000 have been killed by the police, and when state-sanctioned vigilantes are included the total is likely more than 12,000 (including 60 chil- dren). Alleged drug pushers or users have been summarily executed by members of the Philip- pine National Police, with little or no proof of violent resistance, and by vigilante groups working with the police.  Duterte campaigned with the promises to kill 100,000 and at times an- nounced he’d like to kill a million alleged drug users.

Civilian Indigenous People have been murdered over land and environmental issues. Whether Lumad leaders in Mindanao or Igorot leaders in Luzon, tribal persons who resist exploitation of their lands and destruction of the environment that is their life, culture and livelihood have been threatened, harassed and brutally murdered, often to promote the interests of agribusiness, log- ging or mining companies. Indigenous schools have been threatened with closure, and school officials murdered. Last November and December more than 2,000 persons fled their mountain villages in Mindanao in fear of their lives.

Human Rights Defenders, Journalists, and priests have been killed. Faith-based human rights defenders investigating abuses of farmers by land owners, land grabbing, and murders of farm association leaders have been threatened and killed, including United Church of Christ in the Philippines minister Perfecto Hoyle, Agusan del Norte (11/16/17), Fr. Marcelito Paez in Nueja Ecija, Luzon (12/4/17) and Rev. Lovelito Quiñones, Mansalay, Mindoro (12/3/17). The Philippines has been judged to be the most murderous country in Southeast Asia in 2017 by the International Federation of Journalists.

We remind the US Congress: Congressional hearings and resolutions are helpful and must be passed and implemented, but they are not enough. Support for the Duterte Administration through Foreign Military Financing to the Armed Forces Philippines in the Appropriations Bill for FY 2019 cannot be provided without strict enforcement of human rights conditions. Assis- tance to the Philippine National Police through the counter-narcotics programs cannot continue while the war on drugs employs extrajudicial killings of alleged users instead of drug treatment
and prevention programs. Protection for human rights defenders and dissenters must be incorpo- rated by law into the US Department of State and the Defense Department policies and programs in the Philippines.

Sincerely,

Tim McGloin, Co-Coordinator, EANP

Paul Bloom, Co-Coordinator, EANP