Int’l groups express concern on Philippine rights situation to SC, DOJ

In a collective letter sent today to Philippine Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, more than a hundred organizations and individuals expressed their “profound and urgent concern on the recent extrajudicial killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention and threats through red-tagging against human rights defenders, including Karapatan human rights workers, human rights lawyers, trade unionists and public sector unions, and organizers of community pantries in the Philippines.”

The groups also enjoined the officials to “[r]eview and revise rules on the service of search warrants and issuances of arrest warrants against human rights defenders, which appears to be routinely used to judicially harass and arbitrarily detain them” and to “[r]eview and revise rules on the privilege of the writs of amparo and habeas data to ensure that human rights defenders are afforded timely, relevant and comprehensive legal protection from threats to their lives, security and liberty, including red-tagging and gendered threats received by women and queer human rights defenders.”

Among the groups who signed the letter are international human rights organizations Asian Human Rights Commission, Civicus, the World Organisation Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights (within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders), Front Line Defenders, International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED), International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, Just Associates (JASS), Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), MADRE, Action Network Human Rights Philippines (AMP), Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM).

Human rights groups, lawyers, academe, faith leaders and civil society from the Philippines, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Catalunya, Chad, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Guinea, Maldives, Moldova, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Uganda, US, and the United Kingdom also signed the letter.

The groups cited the killings and arrests of activists during the March 7, 2021 Bloody Sunday incidents, the harassment of lawyers assisting petitioners against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 at the Supreme Court, the judicial harassment and trumped up charges against Karapatan human rights workers and trade unionists, and the red-tagging of community pantry organizers, universities, journalists, public sector union leaders including unionists from the judiciary and Senate employees, educators from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and health workers as among the “latest in the alarming and ongoing pattern of criminalization and violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

The letter was sent after several Philippine-based groups submitted recommendations and reported cases to the Supreme Court on May 17, 2021, following the March 2021 statement of the Supreme Court on the attacks against lawyers and judges.

You can view the open letter below or through this link.