At the CHR public hearing, Karapatan exposes trends on attacks vs human rights defenders in PH

Karapatan is set to participate in a public inquiry initiated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). CHR opened the session today, September 9, 2019, until September 13. In the said inquiry, civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and victims and kin of human rights violations will raise issues concerning widespread violations perpetrated against various sectors. From September 12-13, the hearing will gather officials from the military, including retired and active ranking police and military men involved in the implementation of anti-people policies.
“There is a whole spectrum of attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders and those critical of this regime – attacks that are fully funded, orchestrated, and justified by an array of draconian policies. The Duterte regime has created an entire political structure for the full-blown repression of people, systematically laying down the pretext for the attacks, and ensuring impunity remains prevalent,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

The Karapatan offical highlighted that as campaigns calling for investigations on the human rights violations perpetrated by the Duterte government in line with the sham drug war and its counterinsurgency program, the attacks against human rights defenders likewise heightened. “There is an entire mechanism created to discredit human rights defenders and progressive organizations. This is exactly the purpose of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Insurgency, formed under Executive Order No. 70 in 2018. This disinformation machine is touring local and international platforms to malign defenders and activists, charged to taxpayer’s money, and using photoshopped powerpoints and false accusations. We have opened ourselves to partial investigation due to the allegations by the NTF, but despite the findings from the European Union itself that there are no irregularities in financial audits, the attacks continue. Thus, they clearly are not interested in the truth, but in destroying the credibility of defenders fighting for accountability. Ironically, the Duterte government violently reacts everytime any form of investigation against his regime crops up,” she explained.

Palabay also reiterated the specific attacks targeted against members and officers of Karapatan. She said that “death threats and threats of arrests have become our staple breakfast as human rights defenders. Not only are our human rights workers on the ground being killed, but even online platforms are being taken away from us. We are facing a trumped-up perjury suit as a form of reprisal on our effort to seek legal protection from attacks of State forces via the writ of amparo and habeas data. Our website has undergone a Distributed Denial of Service (DdoS) attack, which shut down our website. Clearly, this government is intent on silencing us. Further, the government is actively shrinking the so-called democratic space in the country by perpetrating these attacks.”

The Karapatan official also cited the criminalization of dissent. She noted that just as the NTF is mandated to malign and discredit human rights defenders, another formation, the Inter-Agency Committee on Lecal Action (IACLA) was created to file trumped-up charges against human rights defenders. IACLA was inspired by former president and plunderer Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was recommended to be abolished by UN experts due to its infamous role as the the agency behind fabricated charges targeting defenders. Palabay also mentioned other policies that are interlinked with each other to ensure an all-out attack against Filipinos, including Memorandum Order No. 32 and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan/Kapanatagan. 

Given the dire human rights situation in the country, Palabay forwarded recommendations to the CHR to further strengthen campaigns for justice and accountability. The Karapatan official outlined the following recommendations: rescinding of Oplan Kapayapaan/Kapanatagan; an end to the whole range of attacks against human rights defenders; expeditious response and resolutions on the complaints filed before the CHR; the release of all political prisoners; support for local and national laws for the protection of HRDs; submission of reports to the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and to the Human Rights Council; the waiving of the presumption of regularity of police and military operations in cases involving human rights defenders; and the recommendation of timely and comprehensive mechanisms for redress, among others.

“Despite all these attacks, we remain undaunted and defiant. As ineffective polices and the real political and economic crisis are being exposed, we expect the attacks to further escalate. After all, repression is the most reliable tool for fascists. However, our resistance, determination and unity to stand and fight together remains a more decisive weapon against emerging forms of dictatorship,” Palabay ended.