Defend the Defenders!Resist state-sponsored terror against rights workers and advocates in the Philippines

March 15, 2018

The Asia Pacific Research Network is one with civil society and peoples’ movements in the Philippines in condemning the Philippine Government for tagging as “terrorists” rights defenders, activists, and advocates in a move to quell growing dissent and further strengthen its authoritarian and pro-corporate rule in the country.

More than 600 persons, including leaders from the labor, farmers, women, Indigenous Peoples, urban poor, migrants, among many others were included in the country’s justice department proscribing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. The listing puts at risk the lives and security of these individuals, as well as their families and fellow activists given the irresponsible, arbitrary, malicious, and repressive motives behind the petition.

Among the unjustly accused are global coordinator of Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self Determination and Liberation and co-chair of CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness co-chair Beverly Longid, executive committee member of Karapatan National Human Rights Alliance and former interim regional coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development Elisa Tita Lubi, co-convener of Indigenous Peoples Major Group on Sustainable Development  Joan Carling, former UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Jose Molintas, chairperson of Sandugo Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance Joanna Kintanar Carino, Sherwin de Vera and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz.

The use of the draconian Human Security Act of 2007 that was wielded by the previous regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to legitimize wanton human rights violations under her term is an underhanded attempt that will surely heighten the climate of impunity and state-sponsored terror in the Philippines.

Human rights defenders are not defenders are not terrorists. They stand in the frontlines of the struggle against neoliberal globalization, corporate plunder, and militarism. They have selflessly dedicated their lives in defense of peoples’ rights, the environment, democracy, self-determination, and sovereignty. Many of the names in the list are women and indigenous peoples actively engaged in campaigns against destructive foreign mining, agribusiness, and development aggression projects.

The virtual hit list drawn up against activists and rights defenders in the country is dangerous given that the Duterte regime is notorious for deploying not only online trolls, but vigilantes, paramilitaries, and state and security forces to threaten and physically harm critics to its iron-fist rule. Already, have been rights defenders have been judicially harassed, abducted, involuntarily disappeared, arrested, imprisoned, and killed under Duterte. Duterte himself in previous speeches called on the police and military to incite violence against rights defenders.

The pall of terror hanging over the Philippines is also true in many countries in the Asia Pacific region. As human rights defenders in the region put their lives at stake to challenge dictators, destructive transnational corporations, and oppressive regimes, there exists a well-oiled and coordinated strategy of intimidation, criminalization, and violence deployed to silence activists. Killings of rights defenders have taken place in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Thailand. Enforced disappearances continue to be a common tactic of intimidation and repression in Pakistan and China. Detention, arrests, and summonses were deployed in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Increased use of restrictive legislation was seen in Malaysia, Myanmar, and Maldives.

The Asia Pacific Research Network appeals to global civil society and peoples’ movements to stand up and defend rights defenders in the Philippines!

Let us exert pressure to the Philippine government to cancel the justice department’s arbitrary petition, stop the threats, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, to adhere to international human rights and international humanitarian laws, and bring to justice and punish state agents who committed rights violations.

Let us mobilize in solidarity of rights defenders in the region who are fighting mega projects, extractive industry, big business, and tyrannical and repressive regimes. ###