Kin of victims of rights violations, abduction survivors in Visayas to Special Rapporteur Khan: Justice is elusive under the Marcos Jr. regime

January 29, 2024

Relatives of slain activists and a mother of a detained political prisoner, along with abduction survivors and union organizers April Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha and leaders of people’s organizations, met with UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan today in Cebu, as they pointed out the role of State security forces, including the NTF-ELCAC, in the violations on the people’s freedom of expression, opinion and association in their cases, and the persistent climate of impunity in the Philippines.

Families of Negrense peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez, who was killed together with poet Ericson Acosta by soldiers, and teacher of indigenous Lumad children Chad Booc, who was killed by the military in Davao del Norte, said their loved ones had faced political persecution through hate speech and threats against them, their organizations and communities, before and after they were killed. They said that Jimenez and Booc, as activists, had organized peasant and indigenous communities upholding their political beliefs and causes, freedom of expression and association.

They decried the lack of justice on the cases of Jimenez and Booc, among the many other cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Booc’s relatives pointed out that Chad constantly faced threats from former NTF-ELCAC officials for expressing his views on issues concerning the Lumad and the youth. In 2021, Booc together with other teachers of Lumad children were arbitrarily arrested in Cebu.

The mother of detained youth organizer and community media correspondent Myles Albasin discussed the arbitrary arrest of her daughter and five other youth organizers in Negros Oriental in 2018 on fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Albasin’s arrest and prolonged detention, Karapatan said, have impeded her right to pursue her work in human rights advocacy.

The abduction of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Region VII Coordinator Dyan Gumanao and her partner UP Cebu lecturer Armand Dayoha by state agents, including an intelligence personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is also among the most brazen acts of State violence documented in the Visayas region.

KARAPATAN said that “the intensified military operations in the Visayas has been institutionalized through Memorandum Order No. 32, which was signed under Duterte but is continuously enforced by the Marcos Jr. administration to complement Executive Order No. 70 and the actions of the NTF-ELCAC.”

The rights group also strongly criticized regional ELCAC spokesperson Flosemer Gonzales on his statement assailing the Special Rapporteur’s tweet after she visited political prisoners Frenchie Mae Cumpio, Alexander Philip Abinguna, and Marielle Domequil in Tacloban City Jail last Saturday. Ms. Khan had expressed dismay at the dragging pace of their trial, for which Gonzales accused Ms. Khan of “encroaching” on the functions of the courts.

“These NTF-ELCAC functionaries are shamelessly ignorant of the fact that the Philippine government has obligations under international covenants and treaties to which it is a signatory, including those on people’s rights against arbitrary arrest and detention which is true in the case of the three activists in Tacloban City Jail and of many other political prisoners in the country.

“Their frenzied reactions to a single tweet by the UN Special Rapporteur are proof of the dangers of expressing one’s thoughts and opinions in the Philippines,” KARAPATAN concluded, “a fact that Ms. Khan must be acutely aware of by now.”