Tag Archives: Human Rights defenders

[Off-the-shelf] Activists and Journalists Targeted as Draconian Anti-Terror Law Challenged in the Philippines -CIVICUS Monitor

#HumanRights #TerrorLaw

Activists and Journalists Targeted as Draconian Anti-Terror Law Challenged in the Philippines

Screen grabbed from CIVICUS Monitor website

Philippines’ civic space rating was downgraded by the CIVICUS Monitor in early December 2020 from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’. The rating change was driven by attacks on human rights defenders and journalists, the vilification and criminalisation of activists, the assault on press freedom, and the passage of new draconian anti-terror law.

On 15th December 2020, the office of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor said there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In January 2021, Investigate PH, a group of individuals and civil society groups, formally launched an independent international probe into the human rights situation in the Philippines. Organised by US-based International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), the group is composed of representatives from various lawyers’ and faith-based groups, as well as trade unions in the United States, Canada and Australia. It said it would release three reports to be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The first two reports will be released for upcoming UNHRC sessions in March and July 2021. The group will also submit findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In recent months, human rights defenders, trade unions and journalists have been arrested on fabricated charges or killed. The Department of National Defence terminated a decades-old agreement that prohibits state forces from entering University of the Philippines’ campuses without prior notice to school officials while security forces raided an indigenous Lumad school in Cebu City. Civil society groups are challenging the draconian anti-terror law in the Supreme Court.

Read full report @https://monitor.civicus.org

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[From the web] The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders -Forum-Asia

The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders

The Philippine government should immediately end the killings of activists and human rights defenders and ensure credible, transparent investigations and accountability for the lives which have been lost, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) said in a statement today.

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was gunned down on the evening of 17 August in Bacolod City while on her way home.[1] Alvarez worked as the research and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program, and was the former Campaign and Education Director of the Negros chapter of human rights network Karapatan. She is the 13th Karapatan member to have been killed under the current administration.

‘The endless killings of activists in the Philippines have become systematic in Duterte’s regime, and demonstrate the continuing impunity in the country. The government should end these killings immediately and take genuine steps towards ensuring justice for victims and their family members,’ said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director at FORUM-ASIA.

A week prior, on 10 August, peace consultant and labour activist, Randy Echanis was stabbed and killed in his home in Quezon City.[2] Echanis was also the chair of Anakpawis, a party-list advocating for the rights of workers.

Alvarez and Echanis were both included in the Philippine Department of Justice’s (DOJ) list of individuals in its petition for terrorist proscription in 2018.[3] The list included human rights defenders and activists, and a UN Special Rapporteur. While the DOJ eventually revised this list and removed their names, Alvarez, Echanis, and other human rights activists were still targets of unknown perpetrators.

Pls click the link to read more:

The Government of the Philippines must end the killings of human rights activists and defenders

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[Off-the-shelf] Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines -CHR

Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines

JULY, 2020

“Human rights defender (HRD) is a term used to describe people who, individually or with others, act to promote or protect human rights.”1 HRDs include all those who “seek the promotion and protection of civil and political rights as well as the promotion, protection and realization of economic, social and cultural rights.”

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,3 in characterizing HRDs, refer to all “individuals, groups and associations… contributing to… the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals.”

Proposed domestic legislation defines HRDs in a similar manner, further expanding it to state that the “main or substantial work and advocacy [of HRDs] is to promote the respect for, foster knowledge of, and protect any forms of human rights and freedoms”5 at the “local, national, regional, and international levels.”

There are thus no specific guidelines that identify who HRDs are, rather, they are defined by the work that they do. HRDs engage in duties, whether for profit or pro bono, that aim to, among others, investigate and report on violations of human rights; provide support to ensure the fulfillment of international treaty obligations; lobby for legislative or judicial reforms; mobilize and shape public opinion on human rights; or secure accountability for human rights violations. HRDs include members of civic organizations, journalists, lawyers, representatives of marginalized sectors, members of the academe, government officials, and all others who engage in activities for the fulfillment of basic human rights.

Due to the nature of their work, HRDs worldwide are frequent victims of human rights violations themselves. Many are subjected to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, threats, harassment, and restrictions on their freedoms of expression, association and assembly.7 In the Philippines, there are similar allegations that HRDs are targeted and subjected to abuses, particularly by government agents.

This Inquiry was launched by the Commission on Human Rights (Commission) to ascertain the current situation impacting the work, safety, and security of HRDs in the country. The decision to launch this Inquiry was prompted by letters received from individuals and organizations containing allegations of human rights violations attributed to State officials.8 The Commission also took cognizance of reports coming out in various media concerning attacks against the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of certain groups and individuals and those who defend them. These allegations were similarly echoed in complaints received by the Commission’s regional offices.

Click the link for the complete report “CHRP-2020-Report-on-the-Situation-of-Human-Rights-Defenders

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[Video] Once a #HumanRights Defender, always a #HumanRights Defender -iDEFEND & PAHRA

Once a #HumanRights Defender, always a #HumanRights Defender
Online discussion with Pinoy HRDs abroad amidst #COVID19

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[Off-the-shelf] Physical, emotional and digital protection while using home as office in times of COVID-19 -Front Line Defenders

Ideas & tips for human rights defenders

A global pandemic is a new situation for all of us. Most of us already are or soon may be forced to start working remotely. Many will use their home as an office. In some places, there is no doubt this crisis will be abused to further repress human rights defenders (HRDs) and human rights organisations (HROs) like many other crisis situations have been used in the past. Physical and emotional environments are also very different for each of us.

However, Front Line Defenders has experience advising HRDs working remotely and part of its own team has been working remotely – and securely – for years. Below is some of our thinking and learning around the challenges of this modality of work. It is hard to put down one size fits all solutions, especially for physical and emotional protection. This is offered as inspiration to evaluate and improve protection of your particular situation. And if you are a HRD or HRO at risk in your country, you may always reach out to Front Line Defenders for help – the organisation is at work and fully operational during this time.

We encourage you to communicate clearly and promptly with your donors and partners regarding your particular situation. Donors in the human rights space are highly sensitive to the difficulties this crisis is posing to its partners and grantees, even as they face a variety of unprecedented challenges. We believe it makes situation much more manageable if they know what is possible and impossible at this moment for you and your organisation regarding your work or cooperation with them. They also may be able to help you with your specific needs right now, things like portable equipment to work from home or additional at-home security measures.

Read full story @www.frontlinedefenders.org

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[Right-Up] Atake sa Senado – Ni Greg Bituin Jr.

SINA KA EDDIE GUAZON AT FR. PETE MONTALLANA
Maikling sanaysay ni Gregorio V. Bituin Jr.

Kapwa kilalang lider sila ng kani-kanilang panahon. Kapwa sila may kaugnayan sa maralita. Pareho silang prinsipyado, determinado, palaban, kagalang-galang, magiting. Subalit pareho rin silang inatake habang nagsesesyon sa Senado habang ipinaglalaban ang mga maliliit at api sa lipunan. Ang isa’y tuluyang namatay at ang isa’y pinalad na nabuhay.

Si Ka Eddie Guazon ang unang pangulo ng Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML) na naitayo tatlo’t kalahating dekada na ang nakararaan. Namatay siya habang nasa pagdinig ng Senado kaugnay sa mga nagaganap na demolisyon. Doon sa Senado ay inatake siya ng cardiac arrest habang pinabubulaanan ang testimonya ng isang pulis. Dinala siya sa Philippine General Hospital subalit hindi na siya umabot ng buhay.

Si Fr. Pete Montallana ay aktibo sa Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Inc. (SSMNAI) at sa Stop Kaliwa Dam (SKD) campaign. Nitong nakaraan lang, nabalitaan kong dinala siya sa ospital habang nasa pagdinig sa Senado kaugnay sa proyektong Kaliwa Dam na mahigpit din niyang tinututulan. Dinala siya sa klinik at sa kalaunan ay sa ospital, at siya’y inoperahan. Sa ngayon, siya’y nagpapagaling.

Hindi ko na naabutan pang buhay si Ka Eddie Guazon pagkat 1989 siya namatay. Subalit inipon ko ang mga kasaysayan ng KPML na inilagay ko sa blog na aking binuo. Pati ang kanyang mga larawang nalathala sa isang magasin ng pagpupugay sa kanya at ang nag-iisang kwadro ng kanyang litratong nasa tanggapan ng KPML ay aking nilitratuhan upang mailagay sa blog. Kaya pag kailangan ng kasaysayan ng KPML, datos, pahayag, sa blog ng KPML ito makikita. Ako naman ay napunta sa KPML bilang staff noong 2001 hanggang Mayo 2008. At muling nagbalik sa KPML bilang halal na sekretaryo heneral nito noong muling maglunsad ito ng kanyang pambansang kongreso noong Setyembre 16, 2018.

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[From the web] CHR denounces attacks on human rights advocates -Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is alarmed over the series of attacks against human rights defenders in the country in the past two months, and has denounced what it called the “patterns of harassment” directed towards individuals who are only working with peoples organizations.

The CHR reported that on January 19, peasant organizers Emerito Pinza and Romy Candor went missing in Brgy. San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna. It has been suspected that elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Mobile Force Battalion 4A were involved in their disappearance.

On February 3, the CHR said that indigenous people leader and organizer, Jay-ar Mercado of Oriental Mindoro, was killed by alleged members of the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. His remains were found buried in Bulalacao without the consent and knowledge of his family.

Two days later, Engr. Jennifer Agohob, a resident of Oroquieta City and member of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM) and Karapatan, was illegally arrested. The arrest was based on the warrant of arrest for murder issued on July 26, 2019 by Judge Victoriano Lacaya, Jr. of Regional Trial Court Branch in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte. According to the CHR, Agohob was not even made aware of any of these complaints.

Click the link below to read more:

https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/02/10/chr-denounces-attacks-on-human-rights-advocates/?fbclid=IwAR28uyDF3Hz4coePex-_K-CyjRvfaqA2vq8ff4t1L9g3Y-V5aQXlhjCmggk

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[From the web] CHR stands in solidarity with human rights defenders, calls out attacks against them

Quezon City—On 09 December 2019, a day before the celebration of the International Human Rights Day, the Commission on Human Rights hosted a solidarity event convening human rights defenders, activists, and supporters around the country to amplify the call to end the unabated clampdown on human rights workers.

“We thank everyone for joining us in this opportunity to reconnect and to come together as a community in celebrating our shared struggle to defend human rights while we build peaceful movements for change. Despite the threats and attacks, we remain steadfast in our mission to uphold the dignity of every person”, said Chairperson Chito Gascon during his opening remarks.

As a National Human Rights Institution, the CHR stands by its commitment to safeguard human rights defenders as they are a critical force for the protection of human rights and integral to the realisation of sustainable development goals.

The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders lists several fundamental rights necessary for their work—freedom of association, peaceful assembly, expression and opinion, the right to be protected and the right to effective remedy.
“Human rights workers are operating under difficult times as they become targets of harassment and red-tagging, yet they all keep pushing back to make sure that our people can enjoy their fundamental human rights and can lead lives free from violence and repression”, added Chairperson Gascon.

The Commission strives to promote safe and empowering spaces, such as this gathering, for members of the human rights community to articulate the challenges that threaten their security and impede their work. They must be able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. It is therefore particularly important that the protection of the safety of human rights defenders be reaffirmed as a crucial standard.

The CHR urges the Philippine government to stay faithful to its international obligations and to create enabling environment for a meaningful participation of human rights defenders and the public in the development processes.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/commission-on-human-rights-of-the-philippines/chr-stands-in-solidarity-with-human-rights-defenders-calls-out-attacks-against-t/2476206075829256/

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[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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[From the web] Bloody Sunday in the Philippines 3 Daylight Killings Highlight Rampant Impunity -HRW

By Carlos H. Conde
Philippines researcher
Human Rights Watch

Three people – an activist church worker, a provincial politician, and a businessman – were killed in separate attacks in the Philippines on Sunday by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles.

The media reported that on July 7, gunmen shot dead Salvador Romano, 42, in Negros Oriental, a central province long wracked by killings over land rights. Romano was attacked as he left a church of the Philippine Independent Church, where he worked as a youth advisor. He formerly volunteered for the human rights group Karapatan, whose members have long been victims of extrajudicial killings.

Earlier that morning, Wenefredo Olofernes, 52, a well-known member of the Dinagat provincial legislature, was fatally shot once in the head by gunmen while riding his motorcycle home in Surigao City. Assassinations of politicians are common in the Philippines.

The media also reported the killing that day of Arnel Agustin, a businessman from Cagayan province, north of Manila. Gunmen on a motorbike killed him and wounded his wife in their pickup truck.

The three killings are unrelated, but share the modus operandi of killers commonly referred to in the Philippines as “riding in tandem”: two people riding a motorbike, wearing ski masks or balaclavas, and using a .45 caliber pistol (at least in the shootings of Romano and Agustin). According to the police, about four people are killed this way in the Philippines every day.

These three cases highlight the breakdown in law and order in the Philippines. Guns for hire – whether paid hitmen or local government-linked “death squads” – operate knowing that the risk of arrest, let alone successful prosecution, is miniscule. It’s no surprise that many of the hired guns are police officers. And as killings in the government’s “war on drugs” have expanded and come under increased global scrutiny, the police have outsourced many “drug war” killings.

“Riding-in-tandem” killings, and the government’s failure to stop them, are a daily reminder of the need for greater international monitoring. The United Nations Human Rights Council is poised to adopt a resolution on the human rights crisis in the Philippines. It may not end the carnage but will put the government on notice that it needs to.

Read more @www.hrw.org

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[From the web] Spate of Killings of Leftist Activists Investigations Needed Into 4 Deaths Over 48 Hours -HRW

(New York, June 18, 2019) – The Philippine government should promptly and impartially investigate the recent spate of killings of leftist activists, Human Rights Watch said today. From June 15 to 17, 2019, unidentified gunmen fatally shot four members of leftist organizations. A labor organizer was also killed on June 2.

During the upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, scheduled to begin on June 24 in Geneva, UN member states should ensure an international investigation into the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines, including the thousands of unlawful killings under the Rodrigo Duterte administration’s murderous “war on drugs,” the killing of activists, and other serious human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said.

“The recent killings underscore that attacks on leftist activists is a serious human rights problem in the Philippines that has never gone away,” said Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Philippine authorities should fully investigate these killings and bring those responsible to justice.”

On June 17, unidentified gunmen shot dead Neptali Morada in Naga City, Camarines Sur province on Luzon island. Morada, 40, was affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (or Bayan), an alliance of left-wing organization and was a former staff member of a local politician. A day earlier, gunmen on motorbikes shot Nonoy Palma, 57, a member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), in Bukidnon province on the southern island of Mindanao.

On June 15, gunmen killed Ryan Hubilla, 22, and Nelly Bagasala, 69, volunteers for the human rights group Karapatan in Sorsogon province on the southern tip of Luzon. On June 2, a gunman on a motorbike fatally shot Dennis Sequena, a labor organizer from Partido Manggagawa (Workers’ Party), as he met with workers in Cavite province, near Manila. Local groups confirmed for Human Rights Watch a number of details about the attacks.

In previous years, Human Rights Watch has documented the killing of numerous leftist activists, peasant leaders, and labor organizers. Many of these killings occurred in the context of the Philippine government’s 50-year-old armed conflict with a communist insurgency. Leaders of indigenous peoples, religious workers, and environmentalists have also been targeted.

Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have linked many of these killings to members of the military, police, or security force-backed militias. Very few of the killings of activists over the years have been seriously investigated, and hardly any have resulted in convictions. Often, the military and police accuse the victims of being either members or sympathizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines or its armed wing, the New People’s Army. Government officials have recently accused leftist groups that operate openly and legally of being communists, a label that can place their members at grave risk. Journalists and lawyers’ groups critical of the Duterte administration have also been subjected to this “red-tagging.”

The “drug war” killings in the Philippines – which have continued unabated with near zero accountability – require a long overdue international investigation, and the attacks on leftist activists and other serious human rights abuses, including attacks against human rights defenders and civil society, should also be urgently scrutinized, Human Rights Watch said. On June 18, Philippine authorities said more than 6,600 people have been killed in the past three years during what they call legitimate police operations against drug suspects. However, nongovernmental groups, as well as the National Commission on Human Rights, estimated that the death toll is several times higher.

“UN member states should not let another session of the Human Rights Council go by without adopting measures that will put serious human rights violations in the Philippines under scrutiny,” Conde said. “It’s clear that Duterte’s administration will not credibly investigate abuses in the ‘drug war’ and against activists on their own.”

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the Philippines, please visit:
https://www.hrw.org/asia/philippines

https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/18/philippines-spate-killings-leftist-activists

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[From the web] Statement on killings of human rights defenders -Metro Manila Pride

“Pride is, at its core, a political space built on the backs of human rights defenders. We cannot stand idly by as fellow activists are violently persecuted while they work on cultural and legislative reform.” #ResistTogether

Statement on killings of human rights defenders
Stop the attacks

On June 15, human rights activists Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala were gunned down in broad daylight, less than a kilometer away from the City Police Office. This attack happened following the heavy, targeted periodic surveillance of Karapatan members by government security forces. They are two out of four human rights activists slain in the region, in less than a week.

Ryan was set to appear as a witness in the Court of Appeals, where Karapatan and other human rights groups have lodged a petition seeking writ of amparo and habeas data.

He was a high school senior, co-founder of Anakbayan-Sorsogon, and an out gay 22-year-old.

His death, along with the recent killings of Karapatan Sorsogon leader Nelly Bagsala, Kasama Bukidnon member Nonoy Palma, Neptali Morada of Bayan Muna, and the bombings of Mangyan communities in Mindoro, are part of the alarming spate of violence suffered by human rights defenders in the Philippines.

Commenting on these events, Manila Officer PO3 Jupiter B. Tajonera of the Homicide Investigation Unit said, “Fight the stupid fight, you die a stupid death.”

According to Karapatan, 134 human rights defenders have been killed since Duterte took office in 2016. The links between the Duterte administration’s endorsement of targeted attacks, the AFP-PNP’s emulated rhetoric, and the rise of violence against human rights defenders are difficult to deny.

A CALL FOR SOLIDARITY

We condemn in the strongest terms the slaying of these human rights defenders.

We call for a stop to the vicious attacks and silencing suffered by activists and marginalized groups resisting oppression.

Pride is, at its core, a political space built on the backs of human rights defenders. We cannot stand idly by as fellow activists are violently persecuted while they work on cultural and legislative reform.

We call for solidarity across all sectors. The struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community is the struggle of women is the struggle of the urban poor is the struggle of the indigenous peoples is the struggle of the common Filipino.

PRIDE IS A PROTEST

JUSTICE FOR RYAN HUBILLA
JUSTICE FOR NANAY NELLY

JUSTICE FOR ALL HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

#ResistTogether

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[In the news] Farmer gunned down in another attack on the Left -INQUIRER.net

A member of a left-wing organization of farmers was gunned down outside his house at Barangay Halapitan, San Fernando town in Bukidnon province on Saturday (June 16) in what appeared to be another attack on the Left.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasant Movement or KMP) said one of its members, Nonoy Palma, was killed by three gunmen. Palma was a member of KMP affiliate Kasama-Bukidnon.
KMP cited witnesses saying the gunmen rode a single motorcycle and one was recognized as a local militiaman.

The killing of Palma came hours after the killing of fwo human rights defenders in the province of Sorsogon which a leader of left-wing Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) linked to a shift in the government’s counterinsurgency tactic that now targets noncombatant members of left-wing groups.

In Sorsogon, two still unnamed men calmly approached the human rights workers Nelly Bagasala and Ryan Hubilla as they were paying their tricycle fare and shot them repeatedly, killing the two on fhe spot.

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Farmer gunned down in another attack on the Left

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[Urgent Alert] Two Karapatan human rights workers killed in the Philippines this morning -KARAPATAN

KARAPATAN URGENT ALERT

Two Karapatan Sorsogon staff, Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala, were gunned down at around 8:20 in the morning this Saturday, June 15, 2019 at the corner of Phase 2, Seabreeze Homes Subdivision, Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon, Bicol. The perpetrators were onboard a motorcycle. The scene of the crime was only a kilometer away from the City Police Office.

Before the incident, Karapatan rights workers were subjected to periodic surveillance conducted by military and police operatives. Last April 21 at 10PM, said rights defenders, including Ryan, were tailed by a gray pick-up vehicle and a black motorcycle. Both vehicles had no license plates. This happened after Karapatan staff escorted Atty. Bart Rayco, NUPL-Albay lawyer, after visiting his clients who were political prisoners at PNP Cabid-an.

Karapatan condemns the killing of two of its human rights workers. This is a stark indication of the worsening attacks against human rights defenders, particularly in regions where Memorandum No. 32 is implemented. As we condole with the families of our dear colleagues, we raise our fists in condemnation and firmly commit to seek justice and accountability from this ruthless regime.

Justice for Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala! Stop the Attacks!

Cristina “Tinay” Ellazar Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General and Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines Convenor
Personal Email:cristina.e.palabay@gmail.com
Official organization emails: karapatan@karapatan.org, tanggolbayi@gmail.com

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[From the web] Despite progress on HRD bill, attacks against activists and media persist in the Philippines -CIVICUS

Human rights defender protection bill closer to becoming law

On 3rd June 2019, in ongoing effort to protect human rights defenders (HRDs) from continued attacks and harassment, the Philippines House of Representatives unanimously approved a Human Rights Defenders bill. Although the bill only becomes law once the Senate and President approves it, the recent decision by the House has brought the country one step closer towards its passage.

The bill includes the recognition of the rights for HRDs to form organisations, receive resources, disseminate information, communicate with international bodies and the right peaceful assemble, as well the country’s obligation to respect and protect human rights defenders. Once signed into law, the Bill will create a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee chaired by a Commissioner from the National Commission on Human Rights and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organisations.

A counterpart bill is pending with the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights since it was presented by Senator De Lima in February 2018. A reconciliation of the Senate and House of Representatives Bills will ultimately constitute law in the Philippines.

Read more @monitor.civicus.org

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[Statement] Young farmer killed in Bataan over agrarian land -Focus on the Global South

focusweb.org

Hermosa, Bataan – Tensions broke out in Barangay Sumalo after farmers protested a checkpoint illegally installed by private guards of Riverforest Development Corporation which led to a violent confrontation that took the life of one and injured two others.

The deadly violence erupted last June 08, 2019. Christopher Villete (26) and Elmer Bautista Jr. (22) were caught up in a heated altercation with Riverforest’s guards after the two questioned the legality of the said checkpoints that prohibited residents from bringing farming or building materials into the Barangay. A guard allegedly threatened Villete and Bautista Jr. with a balisong (butterfly knife) which prompted the two to report the incident to Elmer Bautista Sr. (54), a Barangay Kagawad.

Bautista Sr. rushed to the scene and confronted the guards about the threats his son and nephew received. Shortly thereafter, Titanic Mystica (60), Riverforest’s “communication officer” and known supporter of the company arrived, firing several warning shots from his .9mm pistol before facing an angered Bautista Sr. with more threats and provocation.

According to witness accounts, violence erupted when Mystica allegedly pointed his gun at the direction of Bautista Sr. and the two young men while threatening to pull the trigger. This prompted Bautista Sr., to step into the line of fire to protect his son and nephew. Mystica however, allegedly fired at Bautista Sr., hitting him in the chest. In an attempt to defend themselves, Villete and Bautista Jr. grappled with some guards, while Mystica kept firing at onlookers who rushed to aid Bautista Sr. Witnesses also say that Villete was knifed in the chest by the guard who threatened him earlier.

Seeing Bautista Sr. being beaten and dragged to a nearby security outpost, Villete, Bautista Jr. and several young men attempted to take Baustista Sr. to safety, going toe-to-toe with several guards while Mystica allegedly fired more shots at them. Bautista Jr. was hit by a bullet in his foot and was maimed. Amidst the confusion, Villete and several others managed to reach Bautista Sr.’s side. Witnesses say that Mystica, now pointing his gun at Bautista Sr.’s head pulled the trigger and missed. Instead, the bullet hit Villete in the face.

Bleeding and coughing blood, Villete cried for help before collapsing to the ground. Angered by what they saw, both farmers and residents rushed to subdue Mystica, who already ran out of bullets. Barangay Captain Rolando Martinez along with the village peace keeping corps arrived after the shootings, and put Mystica into their custody for a later turnover to local police forces. The three farmers including Mystica were then rushed to the hospital, with Villete pronounced dead upon arrival.

Villete was raised by a farming family in Sumalo and was active in a group of young community defenders who stood up against various forms of harassments from Riverforest’s private security. In 2017, he led his peers during Sumalo’s 100-kilometer march from Bataan to Quezon City and joined the 2-month camp-out protest at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Central Office. Villete worked as photocopier machine operator in the nearby Hermosa Ecozone and Industrial Park and was supposed to leave the country for Taiwan as an Overseas Filipino Worker before the end of June.

For more than two decades, the Samahang Nagkakaisang Magsasaka ng Barangay Sumalo (SANAMABASU) has led the struggle for land rights in a 214-hectare property claimed by the Riverforest Development Corporation, a property developer owned by the Litton Family. In 2006, the Supreme Court decided in favor of Riverforest, ending Sumalo’s decade-long legal struggle against a petition to convert their farmlands to commercial/industrial use. In 2011, the conversion order issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform to Riverforest lapsed after the company failed to introduce substantial development in the disputed property, enabling the farmers to file for Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) coverage. Since then, Riverforest has intensified the presence of armed security personnel in the area, installed enclosures that prevented farmers from freely tending to their crops, and filed criminal cases against persons who actively resisted various forms of harassments from the said armed guards.

In January this year, the Office of the President (OP) released a 17-page decision revoking Riverforests’ petition for land conversion and ordered the DAR to initiate the process of coverage and distribution. Riverforest again stalled the process by refusing entry of DAR personnel set to conduct ocular inspections and surveys in enclosed land parcels in the disputed area.

Jaime Tadeo of Paragos Pilipinas, a national farmer’s organization supporting SANAMABASU, says that the Villete’s death reflects the terrible realities in the countryside, where farmers’ rights are constantly trampled by those with enough power to assert better claims over lands. The prevalence of harassments and killings of farmers despite thirty-one years of CARP according to Tadeo, illustrates the lack of government intervention to protect tillers entrenched in agrarian conflict as well as the DAR’s weakness in promoting redistributive reform against strong land-owner resistance.

Trinidad Domingo of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) explains that protracted land-struggles and the slow-paced process of coverage and distribution leads to the erosion of farmer’s rights as it empowers landlords or corporations to operate with impunity—in their attempt to dissolve the claims of actual tillers over the land. Domingo adds that some local DAR officials are known to broker backdoor land deals and have colluded with landlords and corporations to stall the progression of agrarian cases or halt the actual distribution of lands to potential beneficiaries.

Fe Andulan, a farmer leader of SANAMABASU laments that Christopher’s death could have been prevented had DAR been quick enough in its effort to uphold the OP decision. “Though we are aware of the legal technicalities involved before actual distribution of lands can take place, each passing day without any resolution to our case creates more tension between the community and Riverforests guards who continue to harass and intimidate us,” Andulan adds. “We pray for peace in our community as we are frightened for the safety of our loved ones. But as we mourn our loss, we also vow to continue the struggle for land and justice.”

The Save Agrarian Reform Alliance strongly condemns the killing of Christopher Villete as well as the hundreds of tillers who lost their lives in the fight for social justice through agrarian reform.

In line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s mandate to finish Land Acquisition and Distribution backlogs by 2022, we challenge the DAR to hasten the resolution of agrarian cases and as well as the process of coverage and distribution, especially in areas where the safety and well being of farmers are constantly under threat.

We are also compelling the DAR as well as other agencies involved in the implementation of CARP to prioritize the distribution of Private Agricultural Lands, particularly those under Compulsory Acquisition as it embodies the ideal of the program to dismantle the monopolies of oligarchs and corporations over land.

In light of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People working in Rural Areas, we call on government to come up with stronger measures to protect farmers in agrarian conflicts from harassments and violence as well as to establish safeguards that protect potential and existing beneficiaries from land-grabbing, title cancellation, land conversions and other forms of reversals,

Let this not be another case of serious human rights violations where the violated are the ones being prosecuted. This case is a test to the capacity of this government to bring justice to farmers against the impunity of a corporation and its abusive agents on the ground, in this case, the armed guards, whose main task is to defy the law and resist agrarian reform.

SARA also enjoins other sectors and social movements to also push for the effective implementation of agrarian reform as it is not only a farmers’ issue, but is closely tied to the future of the country’s food security. We must again look into the deep-seated issues plaguing our countryside and work towards protecting and uplifting the hands that feed our nation.

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[In the news] De Lima lauds House for approving bill that will protect human rights defenders -Manila Bulletin

Opposition Senator Leila de Lima on Friday lauded leaders of the House of Representatives for approving on third and final reading the measure seeking to provide protection to human rights defenders (HRDs) who have always been facing serious threats, intimidation, and harassment.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, at the same time, vowed to refile the measure in the Senate since the Senate committee on justice and human rights, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, failed to act on the counterpart bill.

“In the coming 18th Congress, I am re-filing the human rights defenders’ protection bill and I hope my colleagues, especially Sen. Gordon, will take a harder look at how HRDs have become more vulnerable to harassment these days,” de Lima said in a statement.

Click the link to read more:

https://news.mb.com.ph/2019/06/07/de-lima-lauds-house-for-approving-bill-that-will-protect-human-rights-defenders/?fbclid=IwAR2pCJORuKRznJgzWkLkRmjVMo8BFSjZ_zpoBMiyCcx8XwcakSHc1qkeUkg

 

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[In the news] House OKs bill defining rights, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms of rights defenders -GMAnews

The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the measure seeking to define the rights and guarantee the fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders.

Voting 183-0, the chamber approved House Bill 9199, principally authored by the seven members of the progressive Makabayan bloc and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman.

The measure aims to recognize the important role and valuable work of individuals and groups contributing to the prevention of all forms of human rights violations, as well as their fundamental freedoms.

It also seeks to impose sanctions to anyone who violates the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders.

The measure defines “human rights defender” as anyone who, individually or in association with others, acts or seeks to act, to protect and promote the protection of human rights, the fundamental freedoms, and welfare of the people.

Read more @www.gmanetwork.com

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[Statement] Reported revocation of PAHRA SEC registration a gag order – iDEFEND

Government propaganda machine Philippine News Agency is misleading the public and falsely reported that PAHRA’s operation as NGO is illegal because its Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration has been revoked. In its continuing attack on civil society, the Duterte administration, now through the SEC named PAHRA along with other human rights and sectoral organizations as communist supporters.

In fact, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates re-filed and was duly registered again with the SEC since 2010 and this registration information is publicly available. It has been operating legally without encumbrances save for those which government levies on its critics. PAHRA has served for more than thirty years empowering sectors and grassroots communities to improve their lives through human rights advocacy. It has worked with the international community to strengthen human rights implementation and accountability worldwide; and cooperated with academic, legal, and government agencies including the Commission on Human Rights on numerous projects.

SEC’s press release finally sheds light to the true objective of the recently issued SEC Memo Circular 15 Series of 2018, purportedly to protect NPOs (Non-Profit Organizations) from terrorists and money laundering financing abuse by assessing the level of risk of NPOs. The risk assessment is supposed to start when all NPOs have submitted their profile by July 31, 2019. It’s incredible that PAHRA and other NPOs have already been rendered judgement. The SEC is being used by Duterte to target these organizations as he targets the church, independent media, strong women and political opponents, with a single aim to debilitate any and all voices of criticism.

PAHRA is not connected in any way to the CPP nor the NPA. The real agenda why the SEC is acting as an intelligence bureau making this claim is to march to the beat of Duterte’s authoritarian cadence- to silence PAHRA, its partners and network, and all those raising the alarm about the dangerous path onto which this administration is taking the country.

The government’s action is a retaliation to the consistent and comprehensive opposition of PAHRA to government policies at the outset, including the war on drugs, martial law, TRAIN law, contractualization, mining law, charter change and all other “kill bills” that Congress has enacted.

Protecting and defending human rights is first and foremost, government’s legal obligation. As long as government itself continue to violate this mandate it is the people who will rise time and again to demand a rights-based governance towards the realization of social justice and human rights for all.

Source: idefend.ph

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[Statement] WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED -PAHRA

PAHRA Statement of Philippine News Agency article on SEC Revocation and Red Tagging

WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED

We will not be silenced by the disinformation being orchestrated by the Duterte government to stifle dissent.

The recent report made by Philippine News Agency (PNA), citing the revocation of the registration of the six non-government organizations including the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its non-compliance, is nothing but a deliberate, manipulative and malicious attempt to discredit human rights groups from challenging the recently-issued SEC Memorandum Circular No. 15 last November 8, 2018. The PNA report failed to mention that PAHRA after its dissolution in 2003 had filed and secured a new SEC registration in 2010 (CN201007182, May 14) and has been compliant with the SEC requirements ever since.

We will not be silenced by this new SEC regulation which is no doubt part of the mounting repressive schemes to threaten and attack NGOs perceived critical of the Duterte government. PAHRA together with other human rights groups has been raising its concern that such arbitrary regulation will be used as bases for political witch-hunting and red-tagging that can further constrict the democratic space for civil society participation under the present political dispensation. If implemented, it will provide the government agency sweeping powers to shut down non-government organizations by assessing and monitoring the NGOs with their own risk assessment under the guise of supposedly protecting them from money laundering and terrorist financing abuse.

We will not be silenced by President Rodrigo Duterte, who has openly expressed his authoritarian tendencies with the move for term extension under the proposed Charter Change, the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and the continuing attack on democratic institutions like the Commission on Human Rights and Ombudsman. He has not spared the human rights groups from vilification for criticizing his bloody war against drugs policy and even ordered the police to shoot them on sight.

We will not be silenced by any effort of the Duterte government to curtail our freedom of association. PAHRA is committed to defending this fundamental right as the foundation of civil society’s democratic participation. We cannot allow President Rodrigo Duterte to go unopposed, and uncriticized. We will continuously fight to protect our human rights and dignity. We have marched in the streets against the Marcos regime and the succeeding governments for years to preserve the democracy that we have. And we will continue to do so as our hard-fought democratic space, with all its frailties withal, is worth fighting for.

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