Statement by the Philippine Australia Solidarity Association on the attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines

July 25, 2023

Dear friends,

We are sharing with you this statement by the Philippine Australia Solidarity Association on the attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines.

Karapatan Public Information Desk


We, the members of the Philippine Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), express our alarm at the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders and sectoral organizers, through the use of Courts and draconian legislation such as the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATA).

Firstly, we particularly condemn the current and former National Security Advisors, Eduardo Ano and Hermogenes Esperon, for their continuous harassment of members of Gabriella, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Karapatan, through their Writ of Certiorari accusing the judge, Aimee Maria Alcera, of committing a “grave abuse of discretion” in acquitting the members of these organisations in a prior perjury case. The original case was clearly a retaliatory measure because the named organisations had sought a Writ of Amparo in relief, as threats and attacks against them increased. Esperon’s reopening of the perjury case is just one of a series of renewed attacks against human rights defenders as well as judges and lawyers who seek justice. For example, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, a supporter of former President Duterte, filed contempt charges against former Senator Leila de Lima, Cristina Palabay of Karapatan, Senator Risa Hontiveros, Representative Edcel Lagman, Renato Reyes of BAYAN and 3 lawyers of Senator de Lima.

Several judges who have demonstrated their integrity and found for human rights defenders, have themselves been red tagged and vilified. Apart from Judge Alcera, Judge Monique Quisumbing Ignatio was publicly maligned after she squashed a spurious search warrant and dismissed trumped up charges against a community journalist and union organizer. Judge Mario Magdoza-Malagar was red tagged and received death threats for dismissing a petition from the Department of Justice seeking to declare the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization. Nor are lawyers immune from the threats for just doing their job – in April this year, the PNP in Surigao issued a memorandum directing police to profile “legal personalities providing litigation to communist terrorist group cases”, such cases involving legal human rights, church, unions and sectoral groups all considered “communist terrorists by the State.

While such trumped-up cases continue, and threats to both civil society groups, politicians, judges and lawyers, the state of impunity continues and must be called out in international groups and institutions such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission which has already expressed concern about this undermining of democratic processes.

Secondly, we express our alarm at the increasing attacks of human rights defenders under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). Particularly we express our support for indigenous human rights defenders Windel Bolinget, Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, and Steve Tauli who were recently arbitrarily declared terrorists under the ATA. Because of their untiring work for justice for their people, the four mentioned have been consistently attacked for several years now, with this persecution intensifying since the establishment of the NTF-ELCAC. All four have been consistently red tagged, faced false charges and suffered surveillance even of their families in some cases, Steve Tauli was even abducted and tortured in 2022. To date, all cases against the 4 have been dismissed and in June these leaders, together with some other leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance filed a Writ of Amparo for protection and Windel Bolinget filed counter charges against those who implicated him in a murder case in Mindanao.

Consistent with the desire of the Government to silence all critics, it has used the ATA against these four leaders which means under the Act, they can be subjected to warrantless arrest, detention without charges and held incommunicado for 24 days. Moreover, the terrorist designation opens the possibility they will be extrajudicially killed or disappeared. The designation is made without any factual basis at the decision of the Anti-Terrorist Council which is clearly designed to silence individuals. The Government has used the Anti-money laundering Law to freeze bank accounts of civil society groups such as the RMP and Amihan, but with the passing of Executive Order 33 any donations to the groups designated as terrorist coming from abroad can be stopped. The two laws together are aimed to completely dismantle organisations such as the CPA whose leaders are being attacked. Others in Southern Tagalog have also now been designated as terrorists under the ATA showing the growing use of this law to silence anyone who would speak for justice.

Given that Australia helped design the Anti-Terrorism Law and claimed it was progressive which people like Michelle Bachelet, then United Nations Human Right Commissioner called it draconia, we demand the Australian Government call for the Philippine Government to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Law and respect the independence and integrity of lawyers and judges in the Philippines, to demand to stop the red tagging of those exercising their rights to free speech, to support the call for an independent investigative commit from the UNHRC and to stop supporting the Marcos Regime through any aid while blatant human rights continue.

We call on the Philippine Government to drop the case against the RMP, Karapatan and Gabriela and to stop weaponizing the law and stop the harassment of judges Alcera, Quisumbing, Ignatio, Magdoza-Malagar, and lawyers who defend human rights workers. Further, we call on the Philippine government to delist all those human rights and sectoral workers including Bolinget, Abellon-Alikes, Awingan and Tauli from the ATC’s designated list, unfreeze the bank accounts of the CPA and the 4 CPA leaders and to repeal the Anti-Terrorism law.

PASA Spokesperson,
Sr Patricia Fox, nds

Andy Tiver, +61 475522265,; May Kotsakis, +61 411406700,; Reyvi Marinas +61 421119776,; Sonja Rutherford, +61393096296,; Sr Pat Fox, +61 423233152,