Tag Archives: KARAPATAN peoples alliance

[From the web] Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic -Forum-Asia

Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

To: THE HONORABLE MENARDO GUEVARRA, Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura Street, Ermita, Manila
1000 The Philippines

6 May 2020

Re: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

Dear Hon. Secretary Guevarra

We, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), an Asia-based human rights network, and its member organizations in the Philippines including KARAPATAN, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) are writing to express our concern on the deteriorating state of persons deprived of liberty in jails. We reiterate the call of human rights organizations to decongest the country’s jails, as the country struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Philippines has one of the highest rates of jail congestion in the world, at almost 400 percent overcapacity. We urge your office to heed the call of UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to release every person ‘detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views.’ We also ask that your office prioritize the immediate release of persons deprived of their liberty who are vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, including pregnant women, the elderly, and those with medical conditions including mental health issues.

Detention centers pose a significantly heightened risk for the spread of COVID-19 for persons deprived of their liberty and personnel working in detention facilities, including healthcare staff. Over the past weeks, persons deprived of liberty and prison guards have tested positive for COVID-19. We appreciate the recent release of 10,000 persons deprived of liberty, but would also like to draw your attention to how such actions must be sustained if they are to have a lasting impact. With the impossibility of physical distancing within these detention centers and significant gaps in health resources within prisons, more are expected to test positive within the coming weeks. The current health infrastructure would be unable to cope with such a crisis. Clearly, prison health implicates public health.

We are also concerned that the continuing arrests and detention of lockdown violators are further compromising the safety and welfare of these individuals – persons deprived of their liberty and custodial staff. With an already overstretched prison system, these individuals are often deprived of access to basic needs, as well as legal and medical services. These arrests, often without warrants, also undermine the people’s trust in the country’s institutions.

Please click the link to read the complete letter:

Open letter to Department of Justice: Decongest jails in the Philippines to contain the COVID-19 pandemic

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[From the web] Arrests of relief ops volunteers, film writer show Duterte regime’s anti-people face amid COVID-19 pandemic -KARAPATAN

Arrests of relief ops volunteers, film writer show Duterte regime’s anti-people face amid COVID-19 pandemic

Human rights watchdog Karapatan decried the government’s continuing militarist response to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic following the illegal arrest of volunteers set to distribute humanitarian aid to urban poor and peasant communities in Norzagaray, Bulacan as well as the arbitrary arrest of a screenwriter in Cebu City over a satirical Facebook post regarding the halting of mass testing in an urban poor community in the city.

“Instead of heeding calls for mass testing and fast-tracking of socioeconomic relief in vulnerable communities, the government seems to be more preoccupied with arresting critics and activists — even those who are working to distribute humanitarian aid in underserved communities affected by the lockdown measures to curb the pandemic,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

At around 10:15 a.m. today, April 19, a relief operation by Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan were blocked at a checkpoint in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Six volunteers, including the driver of the jeepney carrying relief goods, were brought to the Norzagaray Municipal Police Station where they were blatantly red-tagged by police personnel as members of the New People’s Army. Copies of alternative periodical Pinoy Weekly, informational pamphlets, banners, and 50 relief packs were also confiscated by the police. After being unjustly detained without charges for hours, the six volunteers along with former Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao — who came to the volunteers’ aid — are still being held at the police station.

Read more @www.karapatan.org

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[Press Release] Karapatan: Stop the delays, stop the excuses, release political prisoners now!

Karapatan: Stop the delays, stop the excuses, release political prisoners now!

No more excuses and no more delays for the release of political prisoners, human rights group Karapatan strongly asserted, as the Supreme Court (SC) is set to deliberate today, April 17, on the petition seeking the temporary release of sick and elderly detainees to combat the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic inside the country’s highly congested prisons.

“The mass decongestion of detention facilities is a matter of life and death for the thousands of prisoners in the country especially amid the looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports of inmates being isolated for suspected infection should be a cause for great alarm, especially since quarantine measures such as physical distancing are almost impossible in our overcrowded jails,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general urged. “Philippine jails are ticking time-bombs — and we cannot afford to waste more time. Political prisoners, especially the sick and the elderly, must be released now on humanitarian grounds.”

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said nine inmates at the Quezon City Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s third weekly report to the Congress last April 7, there are 74 inmates in the Bureau of Correction facilities being isolated for suspected COVID-19 infection. In the Correctional Institution for Women, there are currently 30 suspected COVID-19 infection cases, while overcrowding at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City has led to unmanageable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis last year. Despite these reports, the Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra stated that they need at least another week to study the proposals for the release of low-risk offenders.

Read complete story @www.karapatan.org

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[Statement] Karapatan assails possible release of convicted criminal Sanchez amid widespread illegal arrests of political prisoners -Karapatan

Rights group Karapatan vehemently condemns the possible release of convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez.

Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, made headlines when he and his henchmen were convicted on 1995, on seven counts of rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta, and the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993. The decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1999. The former official was also suspected of smuggling and selling shabu to fellow inmates back in 2010, according to then NBP Director General Oscar Calderon. He was also reportedly found positive for drug use in the same period.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced yesterday that more than 10,000 inmates, including Sanchez, will benefit from Republic Act 10592 which increased the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates. The GCTA gives additional time to be taken from an inmate’s sentence as a reward for his good behavior in jail.

“This case was considered as one of the triumphs of the Philippine judicial system at that time, yet, it seems that convicted criminals can still pull a few strings to surreptitiously orchestrate their escape, shamelessly disguised as “award” for their alleged good conduct,” noted Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary-General, as a response to the news that criminal and rapist Sanchez will be among those released in accordance with the GCTA.

Read more @www.karapatan.org

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[From the web] Rights group lauds people-driven initiatives in the US to decry rights violations in PH -KARAPATAN

Karapatan today lauded various initiatives in the US by solidarity groups and Filipino organizations to condemn human rights violations in the Philippines. Among the outcomes of which include the recent resolution of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the legislative body within the city and county government in California, condemning the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and attacks against human rights defenders in the country.

The said resolution urged San Francisco members of the US House of Representatives, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to “support a congressional hearing on the consequences of U.S. tax dollars going to the Philippine military and police and to champion cutting U.S. military aid to the Duterte regime.” A full copy of the said SFBS resolution may be accessed here: https://sfgov.legistar.com/View.ashx…

The resolution was prodded by initiatives of US-based organizations Malaya Movement and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-US chapter, which recently organized one of the biggest Filipino political summit in the US last April 2019. The San Francisco Labor Council called on the US Department of Defense to divest from the Duterte administration and the Philippine military and police, in an April 8 resolution: http://sflaborcouncil.org/…/04-08-19Resolution-Against-U.S.…

These efforts followed two congressional resolutions filed at the House of Representatives and the US Senate. House Resolution No. 233 authored by Rep. Jackie Speier and five other congressional representatives condemned Philippine government for “its role in state-sanctioned extrajudicial killings by police and other armed individuals as part of the “War on Drugs”; the arrest and detention of human rights defenders and political leaders who exercise their rights to freedom of expression; and the continued detention of Senator Leila De Lima.” A counterpart Senate Resolution No. 142 authored by Senator Edward Markey and four other senators was filed with similar content and included a call condemning the harassment, arrest and unjustified judicial proceedings against Rappler’s Maria Ressa. Copies of the said resolutions are appended in the SF Board of Supervisors resolution.

“The Palace is again fuming with regard to the resolution. Salvador Panelo’s mouth was frothing, claiming the resolution cited ‘false narratives’ and ‘bogus statistics.’ The Duterte regime’s defensiveness with its drug war has reached a paramount degree, to the extent that it can no longer take criticism nor acknowledge the glaring evidence of misconduct, excesses and brutality borne out of this policy. Now, it only banks on denial and a proclivity for taking out the concept of ‘sovereignty’ when legitimate questions and prospects of investigations are raised by foreign nationals and the international community. Meanwhile, local groups and individuals criticizing Duterte’s war on drugs, among other fascist campaigns, are being the subject of reprisals,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Palabay added that “it is hypocritical for Panelo to cite these resolutions as forms of toxic intrusions when it is the regime’s toxic barbarism and fascism that has caused harm on the lives of many. The war on drugs and the Duterte government’s vehement refusal to review and halt this barbaric policy are among the factors raising the toxins in the country’s veins. These policies are gradually being rejected by Filipinos and the international community. We emphasize that expressions of solidarity to the plight of the Filipino people are not intrusions, nor do they violate our sovereignty. These parallel efforts at urging the government for justice are a legitimate exercise of people’s rights. In our context, it is necessary and justified.”

The Karapatan secretary general also assailed spokesperson Panelo on having the audacity to cite victories of families of drug war victims as proof that the Duterte regime “does not tolerate police abuse.” She added: “This is really a bit of a stretch. If the Malacanang had their way, none of these abusive cops would see their day in court. It is the effort of the families, of the human rights groups that assisted them, of brave lawyers, and of the Filipino people seeking accountability, which has allowed us to inch closer to injustice. How dare Panelo and this government take credit for the perseverance of bereaved families for justice.”

“It is the drug war that is toxic. It is the Duterte regime’s fascist policies that are toxic. It is this government’s double talk on sovereignty that is toxic. It irks us that sovereignty is now being a convenient excuse to discredit inquiries and efforts at confirming allegations against the Duterte government. The image of the West Philippine Sea and the artificial islands now built on it is enough to demonstrate the irony and the shameless hypocrisy,” Palabay said.

“The specter of human rights violations and irreparable damage caused by the drug war will haunt this government, and it will be the victims’ families who will be at the forefront of the quest for justice and accountability. As we welcome these initiatives and expressions of solidarity, we likewise call on other governments from different parts of the globe to do the same,” Palabay concluded.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

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[Urgent Alert] Karapatan condemns the extrajudicial killing of Escalante City councilor and human rights worker Bernardino “Toto” Patigas

URGENT ALERT: Karapatan condemns the extrajudicial killing of Escalante City councilor and human rights worker Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, 72, today, April 22, 2019. He is the 48th Karapatan worker killed in the course of his human rights advocacy.

Tay Toto, as he is fondly called, was a human rights worker of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, a member organization of Karapatan-Negros chapter. He was also running for reelection as Sangguniang Panglungsod member.

At around 4:30pm today, Patigas was on his way home after campaigning with other fellow candidates. As he was driving his motorcycle along the highway to Brgy. Washington, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, he was shot twice in his leg and forehead.

Tay Toto was a survivor of the Escalante massacre of 20 farmers and farmworkers on September 20, 1985. He continued to support human rights advocacies especially the cause of the sakadas of Negros and joined fact finding missions in Negros after the dictator Marcos was ousted.

He received threats and harassment due to his human rights work. In 2017, trumped up complaints were filed against Patigas but these were dismissed due to lack of probable cause. In April 2018, Patigas’s name and picture, together with that of slain human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and 60 other individuals and rights advocates, were included in a poster of alleged communist personalities.

As we condole with the family and friends of Tay Toto, as we cry with the loss of a good man and a diligent human rights worker, we pay tribute to his valuable contribution to the overall human rights advocacy in the Philippines. We vow to pursue the struggle for justice and realization of people’s rights amidst tyrants and fascists pervading the country.

Justice for Toto Patigas!
Justice for all victims of human rights violations!

For reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, ‪+639173162831‬
Roneo Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, ‪+639997721233‬

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[Appeal] KARAPATAN’s open letter on the recent cyber-attack against its website

KARAPATAN’s open letter on the recent cyber-attack against its website

Dear friends and colleagues,

Karapatan’s website http://www.karapatan.org has been inaccessible since January 20, 2019. We were careful not to automatically attribute this problem to a possible cyber attack against our web page. However, after much troubleshooting, our website continued to receive an abnormal load of traffic which was more than what the provider can handle. After requesting assistance from Quirum, a Sweden-based non-profit secure hosting provider for independent media and human rights organizations, to investigate, initial findings show that the signature of the attacks was identical to those of Philippine alternative media groups Bulatlat, Altermidya, and Pinoy Weekly. We, therefore, confirm that the inaccessibility of our website is due to a targeted Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack from a source intent on silencing Karapatan’s platform for online advocacy.

According to Qurium, Karapatan’s website has been monitored by the attackers since November 2018, when information and press statements, an average of three per day, were released by the alliance on various human rights violations. The attacks started on December 26, 2018. The attackers used several virtual private networks (VPNs). The attacker, Qurium says, can be a group of people judging by the number of devices they used. According to Qurium, this kind of attack against Karapatan’s site and other alternative news sites is one of the worst that they have seen in the last ten years that they have been monitoring attacks against civil society online spaces globally. It was a continuous and relentless attack, taking our website offline for nearly a month, bringing us to the conclusion that those who commissioned such attacks have enormous resources and thousands or even millions of funds to spend.

Since it was put online in 2007, Karapatan’s website has become one of the primary sources of data and analysis on the human rights situation in the country. Our website is a space for us to provide information and expose rights violations in the Philippines, to report evidence-based analysis of the deteriorating rights situation in the country, to educate the public with access to internet on the need to promote, protect and uphold human and people’s rights, and to advocate for fundamental societal change. Resources on this website date back to the administration of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the current administration, and information on many cases, which at times do not receive ample attention from authorities, are published in this site. Together with those who support our advocacy, both online and offline, we persevered in maintaining the site, keeping it updated as much as possible, knowing fully well that the victims and their families need all the help and efficiency we can muster.

With this, the only ones who can benefit from such attacks are State forces, with billions of intelligence and discretionary funds in their war chest and whom we have relentlessly made accountable through our human rights advocacy in both online and offline platforms. Karapatan strongly condemns this attack as a desperate move by those who have clear contempt on the exercise of people’s rights.

In light of similar attacks against alternative news platforms Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, Altermidya, and Pinoy Weekly and the politically-motivated charges against Rappler’s Maria Ressa, this cyber attack reveals a systematic and devious effort to curtail people’s basic rights to information, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief, both online and offline.

This is an extension of the Duterte government’s attack against human rights defenders and against people’s rights. This year, we have been grappling with the Securities and Exchange Commission Memorandum No. 15 which institutionalizes red-tagging and can seriously hamper the work of organizations through arbitrary and draconian provisions. Prior to this, we have dealt with online threats, banners branding us as “enemies of the State” and outright violations such as killings and arrests perpetrated against our colleagues. Clearly, this is an effort to silence us, but we will not cower.

We stand in solidarity with the Philippine-based alternative media groups who have been subjected to similar attacks. They are among the most reliable partners of people’s organizations in upholding the people’s right to information and freedom of expression.

We thank Qurium and all digital activists who are helping us, as we are back online since February 15, 2019. However, we remain uncertain if our website can withstand future attacks, which is why we call on all our partners among national and international civil society and human rights bodies, members of the media and academe, and human rights defenders to continue this support by providing spaces in your online platforms for statements, reports, and materials released by Karapatan. Amid constant threats of similar online attacks, we enjoin you to #MirrorUs to #FightBack, a solidarity online campaign that we will be launching to enable the release of public information from Karapatan through publication in various websites and social media accounts. You may contact us at karapatan@karapatan.org for further information on this campaign.

Through your support, Karapatan, in all its years of activism and advocacy, has carried on despite numerous attacks directed against the alliance. As we remain vigilant, we will take concrete steps towards exacting accountability and exposing this deliberate and devious web of repressive tools to ultimately silence dissent and critical opinion.

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[Press Release] Women’s rights group pays tribute to mothers and rights defenders on mothers’ day – Tanggol Bayi

by Tanggol Bayi – Karapatan

Related photo, Tanggol Bayi. File photo by and story at bulatlat.com

“We are mothers and we are human rights defenders.”

Thus said the mothers from various walks of life, who gathered today at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City, for an alternative celebration of Mothers’ Day. With the theme “Mother, Defender: Pagpupugay sa mga Ina na Nagtatanggol ng Karapatang Pantao,” the event brought together women united by the common call for justice and defense of human rights.

“What made this day special and relevant is the unity of women human rights defenders, who are mothers, that springs from the aspirations for a just and humane society for their children and for the Inang Bayan. Mothers bear the brunt of the daily woes of the family, with the burgeoning impact of landlessness, unemployment and lay-offs, high prices of basic commodities, low wages and violation of their rights under the Aquino administration. Today, they go out of their homes to speak about their role as women human rights defenders, and their aspirations through testimonies, songs, and dance,” said Cristina Palabay, convenor of Tanggol Bayi.

Among the mothers who gave testimonies were Mrs. Beth Calubad, a mother and wife of disappeared; Ms. Sally Reyes, mother of slain activist and Brgy. Capt. Kenneth Reyes; and Mercy Castro, a community health worker and among the Morong 43 who was pregnant at the time of the arrest, as well as mothers from the urban poor, workers, overseas Filipino workers, community health workers, teachers, church workers and law students.

The event utilized playback theater, a form of interactive non-scripted theater, seen by theater artists as a form of applied theater that “provides individuals and communities a method of telling and listening to stories of human experience. After the mothers relate their experiences as human rights defenders, poetic performances, which include dances and songs, were conducted by young artists. The event was capped by a symbolic offering of fans for the mothers.

Palabay also recognized the courage of the mothers of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, who recently filed criminal charges against Gen. Jovito Palparan for the rape, serious physical injuries, arbitrary detention and other cases of their daughters.

“Many of the women human rights defenders are wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of those who were victims of extrajudicial killings, torture, disappearances, illegal detention and other rights violations. Despite the anguish they feel in knowing the brutalities their loved ones experienced, they were not cowed into silence and inaction. They took up the cudgels for the fight for human rights,” she commented.

“These especially represent the ever alive and burning passion of mothers to serve not only the intimate circle of one’s family but encompassing the community they belong to, and thereby promote and defend human rights,” Palabay said. ###
NEWS RELEASE
May 7 2011
Reference: Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi Convenor (0917-5003879)

[Press release] On Earth Day: “Remember those who have reunited with the earth” Victims organization cry justice for slain environmental activists – Hustisya

Source: One Palawan Facebook Account

AS THEY JOIN the Earth Day activities today, victims organization Hustisya called to “remember those who have reunited with the earth,” as they cried for justice for slain environmental activists.

“While Earth Day is a venue to discuss and address environmental concerns, we should not forget the environmental activists who were killed because of their staunch advocacy to defend the environment from plunder and destruction,” Hustisya secretary general Cristina Guevarra said.

According to Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, there have been 39 victims of environment-related cases of extrajudicial killings, five of which were killed under Pres. Noynoy Aquino. Majority of the victims were actively campaigning against large-scale foreign-owned mining and logging in different parts of the country.

Not yet included in the list is the killing of Santos Manrique on April 12 in Compostela Valley. Manrique is an anti-mining activist who, along with small-scale miners and environmentalists, actively campaigned against the entry of large-scale foreign owned mining in the province.

“Environmental plunder will only bring destruction and displacement rather than development to poor communities. We should call for justice at the same time that we take up the issues that slain environmental activists have devoted their whole life to,” she said.

The group said it best to give the highest tribute to Dr. Leonard Co, Dr. Gerry Ortega, Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg, Armin Marin and other martyred environmental activists by continuing their call to stop the rape of our nation’s resources.

The human rights organization also stressed that the people should be made aware that the government’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is not being implemented to bring in development to our communities. “It is an instrument to sow terror among the people who oppose these so-called development projects like large scale mining,”  Guevarra said. “It is for this reason that the culture of impunity continue to reign and that killings of environmental activists have persisted.”

Hustisya further explained the lies that Oplan Bayanihan intends to hide with its repackaged formula to win the people’s trust. “Anti-insurgency programs don’t bring in developments, it is under its name that large scale mining companies and big loggers can freely plunder our natural resources, even if it meant claiming the lives of those who dare stop them,” Guevarra continued.

Hustisya then challenged the Aquino government to hear the plight of thousands of Filipinos in danger of losing their homes, livelihood and lives due to environmental destruction and plunder.

“It is not enough to suspend applications of mining firms. The government should scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and other similar anti-people, anti-environment policies,” she said.

Press Release
April 19, 2011
Reference: Ma. Cristina Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general  0949-1772928