The Philippines: stop criminalization of human rights defenders

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ESCR-Net sent a letter to the Government of Philippines to raise concern about the criminalization of human rights defenders: Roy Velez, Amelita Bravante-Gamara, and Renante Gamara and an ongoing and systematic pattern of intimidation, harassment, violence, and criminalisation targeting human rights defenders in the Philippines.

Reportedly, Mr Velez, Ms Bravante-Gamara, and Mr Gamara were active trade union leaders, working to defend the human rights of workers and the urban poor in the Philippines. Among other things, they have worked to promote the right to work, adequate working conditions and wages, adequate housing, and human rights related to the environment. 

In the letter, ESCR-Net raised concern about the government’s wide use of criminal proceedings – often under the pretext of an apparent ‘counter-insurgency’ program – to silence and repress human rights defenders in connection with their legitimate work to ensure labour rights and human rights.

The Network called on the Government of the Philippines to:

  1. Undertake prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigations into the circumstances leading to the charges against Mr Gamara, Ms Bravante-Gamara, and Mr Velez;
  2. Ensure the protection of all of their rights while in custody or detention;
  3. Undertake prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigations into the crimes of which they are accused to clarify responsible parties and ensure appropriate remedies;
  4. Cease, and take all necessary steps to ensure that all actors, including agents of the State and company representatives, refrain from all further acts of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and violence against the staff of Defend Job, other family members and persons associated with Mr Gamara, Ms Bravante-Gamara, and Mr Velez, and any person in the Philippines involved in legitimate and peaceful human rights work; and
  5. Take appropriate measures to fully respect, protect and fulfil labour and human rights, in law, policy and practice, in all development and related activities, including protection against forced evictions and measures to allow local people to sustain their livelihoods and live in dignity, by safeguarding genuine democratic space open to all members of the society. 

Please read the full letter here

Please read the press release in English and Tagalog.