Karapatan: Respect for rights, freedoms in PH bleak, not “vibrant”

January 17, 2024

“The situation is bleak, if not worse, especially with the ongoing and persistent attacks against journalists, artists, members of the academe, freedom of expression advocates and the people, in general, due to their critical views and opinions on the current state of affairs in the Philippines,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, regarding statements made by the Philippine government on the “vibrant” status of press freedom in the country.

Karapatan is part of the #FightToExpress campaign that gathers organizations of journalists, media practitioners, alternative media, artists, teachers and members of the academe, and people’s organizations, in raising the issues and concerns that undermine press freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines.

At least 39 national, regional and international organizations have submitted reports to Ms. Khan that show how journalists and independent media outfits continue to be threatened with press freedom violations, ranging from media killings to website blocking. Included in the submission are documentation on threats and vilifications against independent and progressive artists, as well as teachers and members of the academe. Reports also showed how unionists and activists suffer under a regime of disinformation and oppression by State agents who are contemptuous of people’s rights.

“What is strong and vibrant here is the people’s active engagement and defense for their basic rights and freedoms,” Palabay added, “and this is precisely what we want Ms. Irene Khan to see, that amidst this bleak situation, Filipino journalists, artists, educators and the people strive to uphold these rights,” added Palabay.

The group then challenged the Marcos Jr. administration to answer for these issues, and act on the recommendations of UN experts which have seen the situation of human rights in the Philippines “instead of putting vocal critics, rights defenders and press freedom warriors in a bad light.”

Palabay deplored Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) executive director undersecretary Paul Gutierrez, the agency tasked by the Philippine government to face the UN Special Rapporteur in her visit, for its outright terrorist-tagging of detained alternative media journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio.

In his column yesterday at Journal News Online, Gutierrez mentioned Cumpio and said, “Nais din niyang malaman ang sitwasyon ni Franchie Mae Cumpio, na kasalukuyang naka-detine sa Palo Provincial Jail sa Leyte dahil sa aktibo nitong papel sa lokal na teroristang grupo ng mga komunista.”

“Here is a big example of the government’s so-called ‘promotion of human rights,’ and yet, the Philippine government is already vilifying human rights defenders and press freedom defenders because they have tagged them as enemies of the state. If not doublespeak, this is downright hypocrisy,” Palabay said.

The group underscored that government agencies involved in the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur are the same agencies engaged in red-tagging, terrorist-labelling, filing of trumped up charges, among others.

Aside from the PTFoMS, among those mentioned by the PTFoMS that are tasked to face the UN Special Rapporteur are the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Anti-Terrorism Council Programme Management Council (ATC-PMC), and the NTF-ELCAC. #