Global Call for Philippine Authorities To Stop the Criminalization of Human Rights Defenders

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stands in solidarity with Karapatan, - the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights - and their allies GABRIELA - National Alliance of Women - and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in the face of the retaliatory perjury charges brought by the Philippine government against them.

The ten human rights defenders facing charges for perjury are Karapatan Chairperson, Elisa Tita Lubi; Karapatan Secretary General, Cristina “Tinay” Palabay; Karapatan Deputy Secretary General, Roneo Clamor; Karapatan Treasurer, Gabriela Grista Dalena; Karapatan National Council members, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, and .Jose Mari Callueng; GABRIELA Chairperson, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang;GABRIELA Secretary General, Joan May Salvador, and member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Emma Cupin.

The perjury charges leveled against them appear to be in retaliation for a protection order from threats and harassment that the three organizations filed against government officials filed with the Supreme Court, in May 2019. In July 2019,  National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. submitted a complaint against  the three organizations. The complaint provided false registration information about the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, who had their registration revoked due to failure to submit required documentation. Although the case was initially dismissed for lack of probable cause and sufficient evidence, in February 2020 the Quezon City ProsecutorVimar Barcellano, granted a motion for reconsideration of the perjury case. As a result, the ten human rights defenders are now facing trials over the coming weeks.

The judicial harassment of the Philippine human rights defenders has been widely condemned by regional and global civil society. Recently, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor urged the Philippine authorities to "stop the targeting of Human Rights Defenders, and instead promote and protect their work."

The judicial harassment  is part of the ongoing systemic attacks perpetrated by the highest offices in the country against Karapatan and the broader human rights movement. The attacks include threats, slander, ‘red-tagging’, criminalization and killings

According to Karapatan, from the beginning of President Duterte’s term in office in 2016 until December 2020, victims of politically-related human rights violations include over 376 extrajudicial killings, 488  frustrated killings, and 18 enforced disappearances, and 1,100 illegally arrested and detained. 297 politically-related extrajudicial killings victims were peasant activists, and 68 were indigenous peoples.

Solidarity with Karapatan Human Right Defenders

We call on the national authorities in the Philippines to:

  • Drop the perjury charges against Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and put an end to the criminalization of the human rights movement in the Philippines.
  • Ensure the physical, mental and moral integrity of human rights defenders in the Philippines, including guaranteeing the protection of human rights defenders receiving death and other threats, taking into account the often gendered threats received by women human rights defenders, 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.
  • Publicly recognize the legitimate and essential work of human rights defenders to advance internationally recognized rights of indigenous peoples, labor rights and human rights generally, working towards societies where economic, political, social, civil, cultural and environmental rights are a reality for all.

About Karapatan

Karapatan is an alliance of organizations, groups and individuals, which was established in 1995, in the Philippines. Their crucial human rights work is internationally recognized. In June 2021, they were awarded the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award for the Advancement of People’s Rights by the US-based, Human Rights First, and in December 2021, Karapatan Secretary General, Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, was presented with the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and Rule of Law for her outstanding contribution to human rights.

ESCR-Net is proud to count Karapatan amongst our more than 280 members around the world. Karapatan provides important leadership to the ESCR-Net System of Solidarity Advisory Group which supports fellow ESCR-Net members that come under attack for their legitimate human rights work.

Take Action! #HandsOffDefenders

Tell the Philippines authorities that human rights defenders must be protected, not criminalized. #HandsOffDefenders 

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