Research network commits to step up its rights advocacies, calls for further vigilance amid new Marcos regime

Former Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon

On the eve of Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s inauguration, Asia Pacific Research Network calls for more vigilance while stepping up its commitment to people’s rights in the Philippines. “We are already alarmed with the human rights crisis in the country and we are seeing that this will continue in the next administration,” says APRN general secretary Alex Enano in a statement. 

The research group was joined by former Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon in calling for vigilance in the upcoming regime. “We have seen too much violence and vitriol in the Duterte administration that has continued on during and after the elections. The world is watching once again but this time with more vigilance,” says Rhiannon of Aid/Watch, an organization based in Australia collaborating with social movements around the world. 

Last June 9, a total of 93 farmers and their supporters were arrested during a land cultivation campaign or “bungkalan” in the town of Tinang, Tarlac, 127 kilometers from Manila. Some of those arrested were campus journalists and artists supporting the farmer’s fight for land. Also this month, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) terror-tagged and blocked websites of alternative media and progressive organizations in the country.

According to Rhiannon, these mass arrests and affront to democratic rights are of global concern. “This is beyond disturbing. This has been the reality for Filipinos for the past six years. Another regime poised to continue such undemocratic policies would be devastating to the fabric of Philippine society,” says Rhiannon who is also a commissioner of Investigate PH and has actively supported the International Observers Mission (IOM) which documented the rights violations related to the recent elections.

In the electoral campaign, Marcos along with incoming vice-president Sara Duterte vowed to continue the outgoing administration’s programs and policies. 

“A Duterte-apologist himself, Marcos is expected to protect Duterte from being held accountable in both local and international courts,” says Enano in a separate statement. 

Last week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor sought to reopen an investigation into killings and rights abuses committed by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

A Duterte-apologist himself, Marcos is expected to protect Duterte from being held accountable in both local and international courts

Uphold the truth, support the people

According to the research network, Marcos’s victory is the latest in the rise of fascism in the Asia Pacific. “Corrupt fascist leaders and right-wing groups have gained legitimacy in the poorest of countries. What is common in them is that they have employed tactics of disinformation and vitriol both online and offline while preying on the unaddressed grievances and discontents of the people,” says APRN. 

The research group said that this ongoing trend can be seen not only in the Philippines but in India, Indonesia, Pakistan, West Papua, and other least developed countries in the region.

The last Philippine electoral process was marred with anomalies, fraud, vote-buying, and violence, and defined by gross deception campaigns. According to the research network, the Marcoses were able to return through decades of political accommodation by previous administrations coupled with a years-long and massive disinformation campaign to maliciously revise history. 

“This offensive against the truth and history goes against our network’s core principles,” says Enano. The research network highlighted the importance of education, research, and advocacy work by the people saying that “it is essential that research and information serve the needs of citizens while underscoring their role in defending their rights, democracy, and effecting social change.” 

Days before the Marcos inauguration, APRN commits to ramp up its efforts as a research network in capacitating people’s movements in collectively asserting democratic rights amid the rise of fascist regimes in the Asia Pacific region. The research group provides capacity-building to grassroots organizations while producing people’s research with a critical understanding of issues to support struggles for social justice.

“With more vigilance, we will continue to document and monitor the state of peoples organizations and CSOs in the Philippines. Surely, we will challenge the Marcos administration and other governments on issues of civic spaces and people’s rights,” Enano ends.#