Karapatan bares “rogue gallery” of wanted human rights violators as Duterte gov’t reps face CHR public inquiry

Karapatan and various rights groups held a protest action outside the Commission on Human Rights, as government representatives face the public inquiry. Military and police officials, including retired uniformed men appointed by Duterte in his Cabinet, were invited in the said CHR hearing, which started on September 9 and is set to end on September 13, 2019. The public inquiry will probe reports of State-perpetrated attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders.
During the third day of the public inquiry where government representatives were invited to attend, the rights group unveiled a “rogue gallery” of human rights violators who have perpetrated attacks against human rights defenders.

“This vindictive government is out to get anyone who remains critical of its reign of terror. Human rights defenders are killed, illegally arrested, and nowadays, harassed incessantly through various forms of red-tagging – from posters, to verbal pronouncements, junkets and powerpoint presentations. Duterte himself has repeatedly red-tagged Karapatan seven times on national television, referring to us as terrorists, communists, devils, and enemies of the State. Despite this blatant red-tagging, the government washes its hands when human rights defenders are killed, reasoning that it did not pull the trigger. Yet it has surreptitiously laid down the pretext to the targeting of human rights defenders. Thus, red-tagging, in itself, should be considered a violation; a threat to one’s life, liberty and security,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor.

Clamor emphasized that the extent of red-tagging should be addressed, particularly since it is inevitably interlinked to the attacks against human rights defenders. “We respond to their allegations but the attacks and false accusations do not stop. These rumormongers are not interested in the truth, but in destroying the credibility of defenders fighting for accountability,” Clamor added, citing that the foremost perpetrators of this malicious labeling are militarists appointed by the President in his Cabinet, and no less than the President himself.

“The public inquiry opened up the possibility of providing mechanisms to address red-tagging. During the opening statement however, the lawyer of Esperon opened his speech by saying that red-tagging does not exist, only to start red-tagging organizations a few minutes later,” he shared. The Karapatan official listed the many of the alleged “proof” which government representatives always cite when they red-tag Karapatan workers: 

  1. We were allegedly included and mentioned in a video by Jose Maria Sison in the 1980s
  2. We were allegedly funding the New People’s Army
  3. We were allegedly included in a list of members of the ILPS
  4. We refuse to condemn and investigate alleged acts of CPP-NPA
To this, we have repeatedly answered:
  1. We were established in 1995.
  2. Our financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue will bear out the lie that we are funding the NPA. 
  3. We are proud members of the ILPS, as it has been a strong pillar of unity among oppressed peoples across the globe. ILPS has members from all over the world, including European, Latin American, and other Asian countries. 
  4. Our mandate is to investigate and document State-perpetrated violations, which emanates from the fact that the State is the primary duty-bearer in the promotion, protection and realization of human rights. The government has its own mechanisms to investigate, and they are free to do so.
“Their disinformation campaign is endless. However, their words have profound implications to the lives and work of human rights defenders. Lawyers, peasant advocates, paralegals, and many others have been killed because of such malicious and false campaigns. The focus should not only be on who pulled the trigger, but should also touch on the context of the incident. Doing this will reveal a systematic policy and orchestrated campaign to discredit human rights organizations, to prevent them from pursuing allegations and documenting cases of human rights violations,” Clamor added.

The Karapatan offical highlighted that “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,” he explained.

Karapatan also submitted documents to the CHR pertaining to government’s policy on redtagging and their counterinsurgency campaign that targets progressive organizations and individuals. 

Given the dire human rights situation in the country, Karapatan 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.