On the evening of December 10, after protests that commemorated the International Human Rights Day, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay received a call and a series of texts from an unknown number.
On the evening of December 10, after protests that commemorated the International Human Rights Day, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay received a call and a series of texts from an unknown number. According to Palabay, the caller threatened to kill her and "said the worst possible things." In a follow-up text message, the caller, using the number 09275704471, threatened the Karapatan official of rape.
Karapatan strongly condemns this verbal assault and series of threats against our secretary general. Such use of words meant to demean Cristina on the basis of her identity as a woman is precisely indicative of the fascist character and toxic masculinity perpetrated and replicated by President Duterte and his supporters. Such attacks against women human rights defenders merely prove what we have been saying all along – that this government and its whole gamut of supporters have no inkling for human rights.
We further stress the seriousness of insinuating rape as a form of harassment against women human rights defenders. More than anything, this reveals how barbaric, cruel, and disgusting these trolls are. We raise the possibility that these threats come from military or police agents, or overzealous fans of the Duterte government who have inherited the same contempt for dissent, protests, and human rights. To label women human rights defenders as "prostitutes" is a gross attempt to erase what women have been fighting for, and to reduce them as mere sexual objects. This latest attack confirms that as we commemorate human rights day, the Philippines has regressed to an all-time low with regard to its protection and respect for women’s and people’s rights. Despite the passage of laws that are meant to protect women, such repulsive words will continue to be used against women and WHRDs so long as toxic masculinity and macho-fascism remains dominant. More so if the State forces that should be penalizing these acts are the ones perpetrating it.
Karapatan also emphasized that the mobile number of Cristina Palabay is mainly distributed in list-serves meant for the media, and even to the police who ask for our press releases during actual protest actions. This is not the first time that Cristina has received threats after we have distributed press releases to the police, which contain her number. With the rampant distribution of negative materials and posters everywhere there are protests and the overall directive of this government to attack and harass human rights defenders for continuously probing for justice and accountability, we attribute such attacks to State forces.
Instead of fear however, such revolting attacks only empower us to resist, to scream louder, to fight back even more ardently.
The rights group also addressed the "pretentious notion that this government is against oligarchs." We urge the public to be critical, as the Duterte government has given rise to a new breed of oligarchs – ranging from his Chinese friends to his allies such as Villar. Amid the rising costs of everyday essentials, the possible new tax on salt, and the ballooning debt of our country meant to support projects that will generate millions in kickbacks, we clap back at trolls who try to lecture us about oligarchy. We know our mandate. Our bias has always been on the side of the poor and the majority bearing the brunt of anti-people and repressive policies, and raising these legitimate issues is not a crime. For fickle-minded, vindictive, overzealous fanatics, dissent does not give you permission to harass and threaten others.
We condemn these death threats against our secretary general, and against all human rights workers in the country. This attack reveals more of their rotten character and it does nothing to dissuade staunch defenders like Cristina to stop their advocacy. On the contrary, it further empowers us to continue marching forward. We will never tire of calling out those in power for perpetrating such injustices. We are emboldened to push back because this is an affirmation that this government and all its militarist forces are indeed vile, fascist, and are the foremost human rights violators in the country.