Two Pinay rights defenders at risk receive recognition for activism

Two women activists and officers of human rights group Karapatan were recently commended for their staunch efforts in the defense of human rights.

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan, is one of the recipients of the 2019 Courage Awards, a citation being bestowed by Women Have Wings Foundation since 2012 to “honor women of courage who have taken bold risks to ensure a more just and peaceful future.”

“A committed human rights activist, Palabay has consistently stood in raising alarm over the numerous abuses and violations committed by a government, which she described as one that ‘evades accountability’,” as stated on the website of the foundation.

Meanwhile, the rights group’s National Council member-at-large Edita Burgos has received on Tuesday, November 26 the honor as one of the Sampung Ulirang Nakatatanda Awardees for this year. The award received by Burgos was accorded by the Coalition of Services of the Elderly to celebrate the work and contributions of the elderly in Philippine society.

The widow of press freedom icon Jose G. Burgos, Jr. and the mother of Jonas, an activist who was abducted by the military in 2007, “Mrs. B” has always been passionate in resisting any form of abuse and has dedicated most of her years in promoting social justice.

Journey filled with risks

Both at the forefront in defying State violence and political repression, Palabay and Burgos have always been at risk, especially under the Duterte administration.

In their capacity as officers of Karapatan, the two are among the 12 human rights defenders who were maliciously charged by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. of  perjury after they filed a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data before the Supreme Court, with Esperon and President Rodrigo Duterte as among the respondents.

Aside from the case, which the accused individuals described as “trumped-up,” Palabay has also been subjected to threats and harassment that are believed to be “State-perpetrated.”

On April 22, 2019, she received a text message from an unknown person warning her and several others that they are targeted to be killed this year.

Amid the intimidation being directed against them, Palabay and Burgos remain unwavering in their aspirations for justice and accountability.

“I am aware that the violations of human rights continue unabated to this day. This, in spite of the existence of laws in our country that penalize rights violations. If no one opposes or brings attention to these State-perpetrated crimes, the violations would not only continue, but would increase and worsen, thus, increasing the victims of human rights violations,” said Palabay.