Rights groups file complaints vs. government on increasing incidents of red-tagging, terrorist-labelling at the NDFP-GRP JMC

On March 15, 2019, Karapatan and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) filed complaints with the Joint Monitoring Committeee of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines with regard to the red-tagging and terrorist-labelling of said organizations. The filing was also done a day prior to the 21st year of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). CARHRIHL was an agreement entered into between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on March 16, 1998 in the Hague, Netherlands.

Karapatan has been sending complaints to the GRP Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with regard to human rights violations perpetrated by past and present governments. The core provision of the agreement is to guarantee the protection of human rights to all Filipinos. The JMC was established in February 2014 to ensure the full implementation of the agreement.

“CARHRIHL supplements prior agreements on the protection, defense, and advancement of human rights. It is a landmark agreement that outlines concrete obligations of both parties in the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law, and sets forward a mechanism for exacting accountability. The CARHRIHL will now be marking its 21st year, yet the atrocities perpetrated by the government remain on the rise. We are here to highlight the government’s non-implementation of the CARHRIHL and its active campaigns and policies that are directly inimical to human rights. Specifically for Karapatan, we have become consistent targets of the Duterte government’s red-tagging and terror-labelling maneuvers, in an effort to silence and threaten the organization and its advocates,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor. 

Clamor explained that “there is substantial basis for all of us to be alarmed, what with the Duterte government’s staggering disregard for human rights and its advocates. At least 47 human rights workers of Karapatan have already been killed since 2001, making us conscious and sentient of how vicious and vindictive governments can be against organizations who work to expose the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. In continuing our human rights advocacy, we are exhausting all platforms for redress of grievances.” He added that apart from filing complaints at the JMC, Karapatan has also called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the incidents of red-tagging and terrorist-labelling. The organization will also raise said issues and violations to UN independent experts.

The complaint submitted to GRP contained numerous evidence on the consistent, targetted and systematic efforts against Karapatan and its human rights workers. The organization cited the previous speeches of President Duterte openly tagging Karapatan as a “communist front and terrorist organization” in 2018. Furthermore, Karapatan mentioned tarpaulins hanged in public places with the message: “Karapatan at CPP-NPA ay iisa, at parehong terorista!” More recently, in February 2019, names of members of Karapatan and several other organizations who participated in a national solidarity mission were included in a flyer, which allegedly contained “terrorist members of the NPA and the CPP.” Those listed included names of church workers, lawyers, teachers, a journalist, and rights advocates.

Clamor also added that the red-tagging and terrorist-labelling seemed to be the work of a national task force (NTF) created by President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 in December 2018. The NTF’s mandate is centered on a “smear campaign against human rights organizations, courtesy of taxpayer’s money. Sending officials overseas to spread rumors and make unsubstantiated claims about organizations known to be critical of the Duterte government’s policies sets the bar high for desperation for damage control. It is an utter waste of the people’s resources,” he said.

The NTF has made rounds among diplomatic missions to red-tag specific organizations, particularly naming Karapatan and RMP as front organizations of the CPP and to label them as terrorists. A video footage by media outfit PTV News 4 gave a report of the said meetings.

“It is crystal clear to us that after 21 years of a landmark human rights agreement signed between the GRP and the NDFP, not to mention the myriad of international human rights instruments and agreements that the PH government is signatory to, the government remains the number one violator of human rights, employing a broad range of violations against individuals and communities,” said Clamor, citing that as of December 2018, Karapatan has documented 222 cases of extrajudicial killings in line with Duterte’s counterinsurgency program, at least 85,000 cases of threat, harassment and intimidation, 111 incidents of torture, and more than 2,000 incidents of illegal arrests. This is on top of the casualties under the government’s sham drug war campaign.

“Under the Duterte administration, human rights violations persist and continue to worsen. No less than the Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte goaded his military men and his newly formed National Task Force to ignore and deliberately violate the CARHRIHL. Instead of addressing the root causes of the armed conflict and working towards fundamental and substantial change by pursuing the peace negotiations, the Duterte government has instead chosen a militarist path. We condemn the onslaught of atrocities being committed by the Duterte regime against the Filipino people and we will continue to exhaust all platform for justice and accountability. Likewise, we also reiterate our support for the continuation of the peace talks, towards just and lasting peace,” Clamor concluded. 

Reference: Roneo Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, +639997721233 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580