Rights groups file complaint at CHR vs surveillance, threats

Human rights alliance Karapatan, together with environmental and indigenous peoples’ groups, trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday, October 23, 2019, to file a complaint on recent cases of state-perpetrated attacks, threats, and acts of reprisals against human rights defenders and their organizations.
“We strongly decry these efforts to harass human rights workers and to undermine our work. The Duterte government and its pack of liars can deny these attacks and reprisals against us all they want, but we’re here to sound the alarm over very real threats against us. The deaths, illegal arrest, and incessant harassment against our organizations and our colleagues are indicative of this government’s vindictive and systematic policy to silence dissent. We’re here today before the Commission on Human Rights with solid proof exposing the government’s desperate lies,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said.

Among the cases documented in the complaint filed by Karapatan include the threats of arrest against its chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi, the surveillance against its officers and staff members, particularly on October 1 and 3, 2019.
Karapatan was joined before the CHR by environmental groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), as well as the Save Our Schools Network, who also filed their respective complaints over threats of police raids, military intelligence operations and surveillance, and state harassment.

“Karapatan expressed grave concern over these cases which clearly show an organized effort to attack, intimidate, and harass human rights workers and advocates. The Duterte government is pooling in all its resources in crippling organizations that expose human rights violations and echo the call of victims for justice. Our continuous need to exhaust all platforms for our protection to be able to continue our advocacy is reflective of a shrinking civil society space in the country. Human rights defense is a necessary aspect of the promotion of human rights, and only tyrannical regimes would see it as an exercise that is anathema to democracy,” Palabay explained. 

The Karapatan official continued: “This government seems to be very allergic of our work. It even has the gall to lie and respond to the United Nations Human Rights Council that it does not engage in acts of reprisals against critics, particularly human rights defenders. From political opposition to community leaders who have raised legitimate demands against this government, the automatic reply of Duterte and his cohorts are different forms of militarism and political persecution. The barrage of attacks against organizations has had profound implications, particularly on the safety of our human rights workers on the ground.”

“We will move forward with our advocacy work, regardless of the attacks and subsequent denials by the government. There is a persisting trend across all repressive countries in the world and a pattern of militarism, criminalization of defenders, and targeting of defenders have emerged. We will continue to document and expose human rights violations perpetrated against individuals, communities and organizations. We will likewise continue to exhaust all venues to seek protection, justice, and accountability against a brutal government,” the Karapatan official ended.