[Statement] Asserting Freedom of Information, Expression and Association on Human Rights Day -KILUSAN

Public school teachers in Central Luzon or Region 3 have successfully voted to have a union. The teachers see this as an important victory for the education sector. An overwhelming majority of them voted to have a union despite the “no union” campaign by local governments and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

The “no union” campaign was obviously along the overzealous counter-insurgency drive by the government. The competing unions were both “red-tagged”. Streamers and posters branding the unions as “communist” and “radical terrorists” appeared in many places in the region. The NICA conducted forums in schools. If teachers are not spared from these insidious attacks, the ordinary people would be certainly hapless.

These sinister acts by the government and intelligence community are affronts to the democratic rights of the people, especially the rights to organize and to redress grievances and freedom of expression, which are guaranteed by the Constitution. These are part of “whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency” which is “institutionalized” by Executive Order No. 70 which was signed by Duterte on December 4, 2018 or during human rights week last year. Duterte, from the start of his term, has several times blurted out disgust for human rights and human rights defenders.

EO 70 which creates the necessary structure or task force, under the Office of the President, to “end insurgency” in order to “attain peace”, actually consolidates the powers of the president and gives him more authority.

Accordingly, more memorandum circulars are being issued and House and Senate bills and resolutions filed to enact laws that would give more powers to the state and curtail people’s rights. Among these is the proposed amendment of the Anti-terror Law or Human Security Act of 2007 to give it more teeth by broadening the definition of terrorism so that critiquing the government would mean not only seditious but also a terrorist act.

Action and Solidarity for the Empowerment of Teachers (ASSERT) in Central Luzon, the teachers’ union that received the biggest number of votes in the just concluded certification election and, a member organization of KILUSAN, issued a statement earlier demanding an end to “red-tagging” and “discrediting” by government, police and military. University/college students, as well as workers, farmers and fisherfolks have also expressed apprehension and deep concern about the new policy directives.

Government’s intelligence agencies have red-tagged an increasing number of student organizations and student leaders. Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND), also a member organization of KILUSAN, said this frightens people from thinking about the real problems affecting the community and renders them passive and incapable of resolving their own problems.

We, from Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN), are alarmed at the rate of diminishing spaces for people to participate in political action and public debate about social issues. The foundations of our democracy are being eroded. Duterte and other government leaders are even bereft of civility much more of sensibility. “The freedom of the press, free expression, association and the freedom to assemble to demand redress of our grievances, are Constitutional rights of every Filipino”, said Atty. Virgie Suarez, KILUSAN Secretary General, “I think these are the real targets of the various executive orders and issuances by the government, to limit the venues of our actions for change.”
“But where should change come from if not from the people themselves?”. “Genuine solutions could only come from a vibrant public participation in civic spaces. Without it we are all dependent on only one idea coming from the ruling powers, and we know how that usually turns out.”

Thus, we have to uphold and defend human rights by asserting and fighting for people’s democratic and sovereign rights. The essence of democracy is peoples’ sovereignty. The people must realize the principle, “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from the people”. We, Filipinos have experienced being ruled by a dictator before. We ended it. We will not allow the resurgence of authoritarian, tyrannical rule in the country.

December 10, 2019
Reference: Atty. Virginia Lacsa-Suarez, Secretary General (09088159923)


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