Karapatan welcomes any query regarding the malicious innuendos of the PH gov’t

Karapatan has always been open to the impartial and participative audit of the European Union, including the Belgian government. We, as rights-holders and human rights defenders, are receptive to such queries, in the spirit of meaningful dialogue, transparency and accountability. We are confident with what we are, and we are ready to face any question on our work, that is in accordance to international and local human rights standards. 

Likewise, we condemn the malicious and false accusations by the Duterte government against Karapatan. We reiterate and maintain that these are mere frantic, outrageous and desperate attempts to gloss over its horrendous human rights record, to deflect State accountability on the numerous extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations, and to undermine the work of human rights defenders in the Philippines. 

Through its relentless attacks against activists and communities, the Duterte government has deliberately disregarded all the significant recommendations of the United Nations human rights mechanisms on the situation in the Philippines. In his report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2007 on the Philippines, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Prof. Philip Alston explicitly recommended that the Philippine government should stop linking political or civil society groups to armed groups as such public statements especially by military officials incite violence against activists. In his December 2018 World Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders before the UN General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders called on the Philippine government to immediately end all forms of violations against human rights defenders, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and to cease the public stigmatization of human rights defenders, which can incite perpetrators to act against them, and instead to publicly recognize the legitimacy and importance of their work. Similarly, in the 2017 UPR review of the Philippines, it was recommended that the Philippine government should develop protection mechanisms that protect and support human rights defenders. 

Since its establishment in 1995, Karapatan has always been a publicly known organization. We are registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission as a non-profit, non-governmental organization. Our work of documenting and monitoring human rights violations, public advocacy and campaigns, and service to victims of human rights violations are all out in the open. The funds we receive are duly audited and our work is properly documented. 

Throughout our years of human rights advocacy, we have undergone various forms of political persecution. Our Chairperson, Elisa Tita Lubi, and former National Executive Board member Satur Ocampo were recently included in a proscription petition, maliciously tagging them and other human rights and peace advocates as “terrorists.” After the strong campaign and defense of human rights lawyers, their names have already been removed from the said petition, but they still face threats to their lives and security. Many human rights advocates are now facing trumped-up charges under the anti-terror law, even without an iota of evidence. 

In the Philippine government’s October 2018 risk assessment report on non-profit organizations (NPOs), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Social Welfare and Development stated that there is no evidence proving that non-profit organizations (NPOs) are being used for “terrorist funding.” The report noted that previous accusations are based on hearsay. The government’s own agencies stated that NPOs are not the preferred “mode of raising funds” for so-called threat groups. The same report says that the abuse of NPOs were actually from politicians, as in the case of NPOs being used “as conduit for money laundering in the PDAF scam”. Meanwhile, the masterminds and benefactors of the PDAF scam are now happily placed in key positions in the Duterte government, engineering more sinister ways to gain profit from public office. This is a separate matter altogether, but nonetheless reinforces the point that criminals are being set free, while those who expose their crimes are being persecuted. 

We are a human rights alliance which has gone through hell and high water, but always humbled by the struggles of the people whom we support. We are grateful for the trust and confidence of the people we serve, which will remain as the benchmark of our relevance as an organization. Every fallen human rights defender of Karapatan – all 47 of them killed by State security forces in the course of doing human rights work – represents the dedication, commitment and passion of all us. Our documentation and reports have been acknowledged by several domestic institutions such as the Commission on Human Rights, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, local governments, as well as several international human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

Our human rights workers, all doing voluntary work, toil through day and night, even at great risk to their lives and security, to assist victims of rights violations and their families, including victims of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arrests, torture, forced evacuation, among others. We are not terrorists. We do not support terrorist activities through our projects and work -- all of which are well-documented, accounted for and independently audited. 

Our work will speak for us, and it refutes the smear campaign by those who have masterminded the crimes that we have exposed.  We are an alliance of human rights advocates and organizations, and we will continuously assert our right to exercise the whole range of human rights, well-aware that the State has the primary duty and obligation in the promotion and protection of these rights.  

We wish that the Philippine government and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, as duty-bearers of human rights can say the same. UN independent experts request for replies to their communications on rights violations complaints, and the government is quick to ignore, resorting to shameful juvenile behavior. Requests for official visits or investigations are met with a barrage of diversions, curses, and ad hominem attacks. Even complaints lodged at the International Criminal Court elicited a withdrawal from the Rome Statute. As the government tries to evade accountability, it has continued to subvert its own laws to jail its critics. It has funneled more funds into its anti-narcotics drive which has resulted to thousands of questionable deaths and not an inch closer to stopping the trade of illicit drugs. It has entered into dubious arms deals that will terrorize more communities. It has intensified its repression of advocates, organizations, and entire communities.

Urgently, it is the Philippine government which needs to be immediately subjected to investigation. 

Karapatan will continue its human rights work, as it has done under perilous conditions for more than 20 years.  These series of attacks have strengthened our commitment. We will not be cowed. We will always march for, protect and defend the human rights of the people.