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Canada conducts hearing on the human rights crisis in the Philippines; urged to take action

The Canadian House of Commons (HOC) conducted a hearing on the human rights situation in the Philippines on Tuesday (May 4 Canadian time and early Wednesday, May 5, PH time) amid growing calls to the North American government to end its policy of “quiet diplomacy” with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay and Rappler’s Maria Ressa testified at the hearing, along with Quebec lawyer and International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines – Quebec co-chairperson Guy-Lin Beaudoin and MiningWatch Canada’s Catherine Coumans.

Palabay told the HOC Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development that the Duterte government’s “murderous” counter-insurgency campaign violates the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants.

The killing of 394 civilians, including 15 Karapatan human rights workers, is an “epidemic of rights violations,” Palabay said.

“We implore the Canadian government to take action on these concerns with urgency, as our country further descends into an authoritarian state,” Palabay added.

Ressa echoed Palabay, adding the Philippine government has “weaponized” laws to go after human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists like her.

Rappler’s co-founder and executive editor said women are more vulnerable from attacks, citing as examples her 10 arrest warrants and two arrests as well as the imprisonment of fellow journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and Senator Leila de Lima.

Canadians against rights violations in the PH

Canadian human rights defenders also testified at the briefing to urge their government to fulfill its human rights obligations to the international community.

Beaudoin challenged the Canadian Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs to publicly condemn the reported atrocities committed by the Philippine government and its security forces on the Filipino people and called for the suspension of all Canadian support to the Philippine government’s anti-terrorism and counterinsurgency programs.

Beaudoin also called on their foreign minister to urge the Canadian Embassy in Manila to apply vigorously the tools in Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders to protect those who face immediate danger of being killed or arrested.

Enumerating human rights violations associated with Canadian mining companies operating in the Philippines, Coumans for her part called on Canada “to fulfill its obligation to protect human rights in the context of the deteriorated human rights situation in the Philippines.”

“[I]n particular, to protect those who are criminalized and whose lives are threatened for speaking out in defense of human rights and the environment,” Coumans said.

She said the Canadian Embassy in Manila has not been doing enough in protecting people who seek its assistance and support. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Ating isinasakdal si Duterte sa pagpatay sa mahihirap’

“Sa ika-limang paggunita ng International Human Rights Day sa ilalim ng rehimeng Duterte, atin siyang isinasakdal sa pagpatay sa mahihirap, sa pagpapabaya sa kasalukuyang pandemya.”Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

Mendiola, December 10, 2020

‘Red-tagging is anathema to a democracy’

“We emphasize – red-tagging is anathema to a democracy. The promotion and conduct of such acts attempt to invalidate, muffle and silence the views and work of human rights defenders, activists, and advocates of social causes, and the peoples’ exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, Karapatan

‘Mas nakakatakot na mananatili pa ang ‘veerus’ sa Malacañang’

“Tapos na panahon ng pagkakatakot. Mas nakakatakot ang mamatay na kumakalam ang sikmura ng ating mga pamilya. Mas nakakatakot ang posibilidad na mananatili pa ang ‘veerus’ sa Malacañang. Mas nakakatakot na ang ating mga pamilya at anak ay magmamana ng ganitong klase ng pamumuno.” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Alliance Philippines

Rights activist frustrates new PNP modus in serving arrest warrants

A Philippine National Police (PNP) operative dressed and presented himself to be a delivery boy in a failed attempt to arrest Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay Wednesday, June 7.

Police Master Sergeant (SPOI) Joelon de Tomas Rafael was dressed as an LBC courier when he arrived at Karapatan’s office in Quezon City and introduced himself as an employee of the delivery company.

“I was served a warrant of arrest this afternoon by a guy who introduced himself as an LBC courier. He was wearing the uniform/t-shirt and had an ID. Is this the usual procedure now?” Palabay wrote in a Facebook post.

Palabay said she was surprised when Rafael introduced himself as an LBC courier when he served the arrest warrant. 

She added that another person in civilian clothes accompanying Rafael introduced himself as a police officer from the Quezon City Police District’s headquarters in nearby Camp Karingal. 

Palabay told Kodao that the undercover officer was Police Chief Master Sergeant (SPO3) Luisito Johnson Ubias

“I asked for their IDs. The guy in plainclothes easily gave his and said, after I badgered the ‘LBC guy’ for his ID, that the LBC guy is also a cop,” Palabay revealed.

The prominent human rights activist said she reminded the two police officers that the manner they were serving the arrest warrant violated the PNP’s manual on such operations.

“[W]hen you’re serving warrants of arrests, you should introduce yourself as policemen/arresting officers. You should be in uniform. In fact, you should have read to me my Miranda rights,” Palabay told Ubias and Rafael. 

Rafael also lied when asked for his identification card, saying he left it in the car. He eventually took it from his pocket when pressed, Palabay said.

The officers tried to justify their ruse by saying they would not be able to arrest respondents if they stick to legal procedures, she added. 

Ubias and Rafael apologized and left after their identification cards and documents were photocopied, Palabay said. 

Perjury complaint by Esperon

Palabay said the arrest warrant stemmed from a perjury case filed by national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in retaliation for the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data petition Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela filed with the Supreme Court in May 2019.

Esperon was among the respondents named in the petition of having threatened and red-baited officers and members of the three organizations.

“This (the perjury case) was initially dismissed by a Quezon City prosecutor, and then revived and filed in court by another prosecutor, after Esperon’s motion for reconsideration,” Palabay explained.

Palabay said she showed Ubias and Rafael the recall order for the arrest warrant against her.

The recall order of Palabay’s arrest warrant.

“They said they only received the arrest warrant yesterday and they haven’t received the recall order (issued on April 29, 2020! More than two months ago!),” Palabay said, adding she has posted bail and presented myself to an executive judge via online channels to secure the recall of the arrest warrant against her.

‘Does LBC know?’

In a Facebook post, Karapatan lawyer Ma. Sol Taule asked if the courier company knows its identity is being used by the PNP for undercover operations.

 “Alam ba ng LBC Express Inc na ginagamit niyo ang pangalan ng kompanya nila para mang-harass ng mga tao?” Taule asked. (Does LBC Express Inc. know that you [PNP] use their company to harass people?)

At ano naman kaya ang susunod niyong costume? Grab, Food Panda, Lala Move Delivery?” she asked, referring to other courier service companies in the country. (What costume would you be using next?)

Taule also asked the police if donning LBC uniforms is part of Rule 6.1 of the PNP’s operations manual.

The manual orders that arrest, search and seizure, checkpoint, roadblocks, demolition and civil disturbance management operations shall be conducted with a marked police vehicle, led by a Police Commissioned Officer (PCO), and with personnel in prescribed police uniform or attire.

Ubias and Rafael are non-commissioned officers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable

“With the conviction of Ressa and Santos, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, the killings and threats against journalists, the numerous violations faced by Filipinos on a daily basis and the passage of the terror bill, a full-blown dictatorship is made more palpable.”–Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

On the arrest of 6 human rights workers in Palawan

“The warrantless arrest of Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers in Palawan is a clear case of the government’s intensifying reprisals on human rights defenders and activists for their work in exposing the Duterte regime’s fascist attacks on the people.”-Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

‘Ipinaglalaban ang kalayaan’