Collective Letter: ESCR-Net calls on the government of the Philippines to stop the attacks on human rights defenders
On 22 March 2021, ESCR-Net sent a collective letter to the government of the Philippines regarding the recent arrests and killings of human rights defenders in the country. You can read the letter here.
Nine human rights defenders were killed and at least four more were arrested during joint police and military raids on the morning of 7 March 2021, now referred to as Bloody Sunday. The incidents took place only two days after President Rodrigo Duterte had issued shoot on sight orders to police and military if they were to encounter “communist rebels”.
A few weeks later, on 21 March 2021, 25 year old Karapatan paralegal, Renalyn Tejero was arrested during an early morning raid on trumped of charges of murder and attempted murder. Renalyn was held incommunicado for a day after her arrest.
These recent attacks are part of an ongoing and deeply concerning pattern of criminalization and violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines. They take place in a context that is extremely hostile to human rights defense and dissent. Human rights defenders are routinely targeted by diffamation and the so-called “red-tagging”, being labelled as a terrorist or communist. Often diffamation is followed by arrests or attacks against human rights defenders. Globally, the Philippines is only surpassed by Colombia in terms of killings of human rights defenders.
Given the gravity of the situation, we call on the government of the Philippines to:
- Stop the killings of human rights defenders.
- Conduct prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the killings, arrests, detentions, searches and other forms of persecution of human rights defenders. Those responsible must be held accountable.
- Support the granting of the amparo and habeas data court petition for legal protection by Karapatan and other human rights defenders currently before the Supreme Court.
- Ensure the physical, mental and moral integrity of human rights defenders in the Philippines, including ensuring the protection of human rights defenders receiving death and other threats, taking into account the often gendered threats received by women and ensuring that the particular needs of women human rights defenders are met.
- End the hostile rhetoric and defamation campaigns against human rights defenders by government authorities, including putting an end to “red tagging” of human rights defenders.
- Put an end to criminalization of human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights activism, including by liberating human rights defenders imprisoned on trumped up charges.
- Act immediately to ensure the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
- Sign into law the Bill to protect human rights defenders.
- Publicly recognize the legitimate and essential work of human rights defenders to ensure internationally recognized rights of indigenous peoples, labor rights and human rights generally towards societies where economic, political, social, civil, cultural and environmental rights are a reality for all.
- Respect the right to association as outlined in ILO Conventions 87 and 98.