Karapatan hits recent state-sponsored attacks against human rights defenders

It is with deep rage that we view the state-perpetrated attacks against human rights defenders as a dangerous precedent to crackdown and go after anyone who refuses to cower in fear amidst the social unrest brought out by Duterte’s inhumane policies.   

Yesterday, human rights worker and journalist of independent media outfit Northern Dispatch Brandon Lee was shot by suspected state agents in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao. Lee was brought to a hospital and we hope that he can recover to recount his harrowing experience. Weeks prior to the incident, the 54th Infantry Battalion frequented Lee’s residence and conducted surveillance of the offices of both the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) and Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, for which he also works as a human rights worker. The IPM is a member organization of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan. In 2014, IPM and Karapatan human rights worker William Bugatti was shot dead. The names of Lee and Bugatti were among those in a so-called target list of the military which was exposed in 2012. 

In Batangas, Karapatan received information that human rights defenders in the province are subjected to renewed state-perpetrated attacks. Gigi Bautista, Secretary of Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Batangas, Gimo Hernandez, Kaisahan leader, Petty Serrano, Secretary of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog are wrongly tagged as communists by the 730th Combat Group of Philippine Airforce. Meanwhile, Pastor Edwin Edgar of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and Batangas Ecumenical Movement, erstwhile Brgy. Captain Ronald Ramos, and Fidel Lopez are included in the hit list of the group called “death squads”. Anakpawis Provincial Coordinator Willy Capareno received a random text message from a suspected state agent threatening him with arrest if he returns to his hometown in San Juan, Batangas. 

Duterte and his ilk can fill the airwaves with a plethora of tirades against rights groups and defenders but they can never escape from the wrath of the people calling for accountability and justice for the horrors his fascist rule has unleashed. 

We call on human rights defenders to forge the broadest unity as we defeat the reign of terror and tyranny in our country. We will not tolerate any violence that will be directed against human rights advocates. We advise the President to do his job of uplifting the lives of Filipinos, instead of killing, vilifying and attacking individuals who uphold and protect people’s rights.