Hands off human rights defenders! Free all political prisoners!

Quezon City, Philippines – Today, KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Hustisya join 95 organizations in more than 43 countries in the Global Civic Day of Action spearheaded by Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation. 

Gathered at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden in Quezon City, rights defenders and relatives of political prisoners distributed flyers and mounted a photo booth to raise awareness on the plight of the 527 political prisoners in the country. They called on the Philippine government to stop the attacks against human rights defenders by state forces.

Amado Cadano, father of political prisoner Guiller, said the Aquino government arrests and detains people like his son who helps farmers in their struggle for land to silence them and derail the causes they believe in. “My son is not a criminal. He chose to help organize farmers in Nueva Ecija because he believes he should give something back to the people who supported his education at the State University,” Cadano said. 

Karapatan and Hustisya also highlighted the case of Maria Miradel Torres, a member of women’s group Gabriela arrested in June 2014. Torres was pregnant when she was arrested and detained on trumped up criminal charges. She gave birth to a baby boy Karl in November 2014. The motion to quash the charges filed by Torres, through her counsels, was dismissed by the Regional Trial Court in Infanta, Quezon last month. 

“The testimonies against Torres were inconclusive and the witness against her has zero credibility precisely because she had nothing to do with the crime. To release her on humanitarian grounds is just. Torres should have the chance to raise her child in an environment that is far from the inhuman jail condition,” said Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya Secretary General. 

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay scored the government’s continuing arrest and detention, surveillance, and disappearance of human rights workers and indigenous people’s leaders. 

Military intelligence agents recently harassed and tried to forcibly enter the group’s regional office in Davao City, where Karapatan staff members and human rights defenders at risk were staying. Karapatan Southern Mindanao assists peasant leaders and their families from Paquibato, Davao City in filing complaints against soldiers of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) for threats and harassment in their community. 

On April 30, 2015, Manobo John Calaba, 28, of tribal organization KIDUMA was abducted by members of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) of the 38th IBPA assigned as company guards of the DM Consunji Inc. in Barangay Sabanal, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat. The SCAA is a paramilitary group trained by the military to protect private companies especially those engaged in logging and mining. Calaba remains missing to this day. 

“Attacks against persons who, and groups that, stand for the people’s right to speak out and take action against injustices should stop,” Palabay said.

At 6p.m., the groups light candles for the 72 workers of Kentex Manufacturing Incorporated who perished in a factory fire on May 13, the worst in Philippine history.