[Statement] Assert the right to defend human rights -PAHRA/ iDEFEND

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) condemn the recent raids of people’s organizations in Negros and in Manila as well as arrests of activists, as preventive actions against people’s dissent, as government policies continue to result in economic crises, social unrest, unmitigated disasters, and political scandals.

These assaults on legitimate organizations are in pursuit of executive issuances and policy directives aimed at shrinking democratic spaces and political activism in the Philippines, in furtherance of President Duterte’s authoritarian ambitions to secure full dictatorship by his term’s end. Diminishing civic spaces, resources and opportunities suppress these organizations from freely exercising the right to assembly, association, and expression.

Specifically, memorandum Order 32 intensified operations by the PNP, AFP, and the Department of Justice, against so-called “individuals or groups conspiring to commit acts of lawless violence in the country”. It also ordered increased militarization of Samar, Negros island and Bicol region. The so-called “whole of nation approach” against the communist insurgency, Executive Order no. 70 targets opposition groups especially those working at the grassroots level. Successive policy directives from the DILG strengthen surveillance and monitoring activities against human rights defenders in the urban and rural communities who are helping victims of human rights violations access justice and address impunity.

Red-tagging and criminalization of non-government organizations undermine the important work of the civil society in raising the capacities of the people not only towards accessing legal remedies for human rights violations but also towards disaster mitigation, disease prevention, conflict management, drug rehabilitation as well as economic resiliency. As long as the government remains incapable and incompetent to deliver these needs to the communities there will always be a role for civil society and peoples’ self- organization.

PAHRA and iDEFEND urge the government to end the assault on non-government organizations and human rights defenders and revoke all executive policy issuances depriving the space for CSO actions. The government is urged to pursue a rights-based approach to governance which encourages a vibrant and dynamic civic culture and cooperation.

End the assault on human rights defenders! Defend democratic space! Reclaim Human Rights!

Read more @philippinehumanrights.org

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