March 19, 2019
QUEZON CITY – The United States Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-US) denounces the vilification of human rights organizations and human rights defenders in the Philippines.
In the last week alone, in addition to the constant vitriol against progressive groups and partylists in public spaces, there was a press conference by the Philippine Government, as well as statement being circulated amongst media groups by a US-trained General, Antonio Parlade, naming organizations and specific people in their tirades against the mass movement in the Philippines.
The red-tagging of human rights organization, Karapatan; research institution, the Ibon Foundation; and church organization, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) is further proof of the desperation of a fascist regime. Organizations and advocates who fight on the behalf of the oppressed masses should not be subjected to red-tagging simply for doing what the government fails to do.
The Duterte administration is afraid of the power and legitimacy of these organizations which garner world-wide support for their work to expose and address state-sponsored human rights violations. This comes at the same time as the Philippines officially withdrew from the International Criminal Court - the world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal.
On the heels of the arrest of Time’s Person of the Year, Rappler CEO and journalist, Maria Ressa, it is becoming increasingly clear that unarmed dissent, a constitutionally afforded right, is being silenced. After more than 29,000 poor people have been killed in Duterte’s Drug War and hundreds of activists have been extra-judicially killed since the beginning of Duterte’s regime, we cannot take lightly when the Philippine government attempts to discredit organizations like Ibon and Karapatan.
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, is a progressive alliance of individuals and organizations fighting for civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people. Karapatan is no stranger to attacks. Since Duterte’s inauguration in 2016, Karapatan staff across the country, have been harassed, intimidated, and 5 have already been killed. As Cristina Palabay, the Secretary-General of Karapatan, continues her speaking tour in the United States, sponsored by Amnesty International and ICHR-US, she responded to the attacks:
“We would even have chuckled at [these] antics if not for [their] not-so-veiled threat on either having me killed or arrested on made-up charges, which familiarly resonates like all the threats that our human rights workers have received before they were killed, disappeared or arrested. This issue isn’t even about Karapatan; it is about the fundamental right of peoples to defend their rights in the context of a tyrannical government that disregards these rights. We exist, because people like Mr. Parlade and the systems [he] preserves exist. And we will continue to do what we do, despite and inspite of [these people], because we know that we are on side of truth and justice.”
The Ibon Foundation conducts research on the most urgent social, economic and political issues confronting the Filipino people as well as the conditions, globally. While the state is busy on a campaign to malign pro-people organizations, Ibon continues to raise awareness on the rice crisis, the manufactured water crisis, and other societal ills that have been brought on by the government’s ineptitude and anti-people policies.
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines - RMP is a national organization of women and men religious, priests and lay who dedicate their lives to educating and working with the rural poor farmers and agricultural workers for genuine agrarian reform, the fisherfolk for genuine aquatic reform, and the indigenous peoples for land and self-determination, towards attainment of the fullness of life, justice, freedom and integrity of creation. In the midst of Martial Law and militarization of Lumad communities in Mindanao, RMP teachers and volunteers continue to provide education to Lumad students in far flung communities where the government fails to provide education and basic social services or access to healthcare.
Following the killings of three Catholic Priests in the past two years, attempted killings of church leaders and pastors who are serving poor and rural communities, rising attacks on church leaders including red-tagging of UCCP and IFI Bishops and ongoing surveillance of church leaders, we cannot be quiet. The attempts to discredit the church leaders and organizations providing the social services and other needs that the government continues to fail to provide.
It is the duty of ICHRP-US and the people of the United States to oppose the continued slaughter of the Filipino people by its government, funded by our tax dollars. Pam Tau-Lee, the Chairperson of ICHRP-US, says, “It is unconscionable that, while people in the U.S. are hungry, homeless, lack adequate healthcare and access to education, we are funding bloodthirsty regimes that attack the poor, the indigenous, women and children, and their advocates. It is absolutely urgent that we denounce this vilification campaign, and defend those who defend human rights!”