Global rights coalition commit to continuing solidarity with Filipinos

About 120 rights advocates from over 30 organizations across the globe committed to continuing solidarity with the Filipino people for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines in a conference in Bangkok, Thailand from November 7 to 9.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said it condemns the United States-backed counterinsurgency program of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government that continues to commit human rights and international humanitarian law against the people.

In the conference, Philippine and international experts and leaders said the counterinsurgency program is implemented through ongoing extra-judicial killings, disappearances, suppression of civil liberties, filing of trumped-up charges using the Anti-Terror Act (ATA), and the relentless red-tagging of activists, progressive organizations, and solidarity activists by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict

Karapatan National Council member Edith Burgos saidthe Marcos government is, “responsible for the steadily deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and escalating violations of International Humanitarian Law directed against the Filipino people.”

Burgos said human rights atrocities committed by the Philippine military and police are not only abetted by US military and is made worse by the presence of nine US military bases in the country.

The US has given the Philippine government over 1 billion US dollars in military said since 2015, she revealed.

Suzanne Adely, President of the National Lawyers Guild of the US, said the American government has employed “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control” of the Philippines since 1898.

She pointed out the governments’ use of the term “insurgency” attempts to delegitimize people’s resistance, including armed resistance, as “terrorism.”

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia meanwhile explained that contrary to US counterinsurgency doctrine, armed resistance movements in response to the severe oppression of peoples is legal under the Geneva conventions.

He emphasized the importance of the protection of civilians and non combatants in the context of civil war.  

ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said international solidarity is critical in supporting the Filipino people’s aspirations for a just and lasting peace as well as a nation free from poverty, landlessness, and state repression.

“The devastating number of attacks that continue under the Marcos regime in the Philippines – the many disappearances, the forced surrenderees, and the killings of NDFP peace consultants, are all violations of international humanitarian law done in the guise of US-designed counterinsurgency programs. The international community must oppose these,” the group said.

ICHRP said its member organizations from four continents have again committed to strengthening solidarity support for the Filipino people.

It added it shall continue to conduct broad education and information dissemination on the situation in the Philippines, lobby their respective government bodies, and oppose foreign support for war crimes in the country. 

“The struggle for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines is not a struggle isolated from the people of the world; we will continue to fervently campaign until the demands of the Filipino people are met and activists no longer live in fear of reprisal,” ICHRP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Taguig Court convicts NDFP’s Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon of illegal gun possession

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez and wife Cleofe Lagtapon were convicted of illegal possession of firearms by Branch 266 of the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC), human rights group Karapatan reported.

Karapatan said that while the couple were acquitted from additional charges of illegal possession of explosives and violation of the elections gun ban at the time of their arrest, they were found guilty of what they asserted was the first of three “trumped-up charges.”

Their companion Ge-ann Perez, arrested and charged along with the elderly couple, is acquitted of all charges by the court.

The three were arrested in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna on March 24 2019 and, like other NDFP peace consultants and companions arrested before and after, were reportedly found to be in possession of firearms, ammunition and grenades.

READ: PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

At the time of their arrest, then Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde claimed they found three caliber .45 pistols, three magazines with 15 live bullets and three grenades were in the couple’s possession.

They were then charged with violation of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code as well as violation of Republic Act 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms) and violation of Republic Act 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives), the PNP said.

A Roman Catholic priest, Fernandez took leave from his church in the 1970s, went underground and became a long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island prior to their arrest.

The NDFP said Fernandez should not have been arrested as he is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees between them and the Manila government with Document of Identification Number PP 978544.

Karapatan condemned the Fernandez and Lagtapon’s conviction, adding it supports the couple’s assertion that the trove of grenades and guns used against them were planted by arresting authorities.

The group said it was absurd that two elderly and sick individuals had the items in their possession.

Fernandez’ medical abstract by the Philippine Army General Hospital immediately after their arrest said he suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2- uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyponatremia, among other illnesses.

Fernandez is 75 years old while Lagtapon is 65.

READ: Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

“The inconsistencies in the details of their arrest based on the accounts of the arresting authorities further reveal this glaring travesty of justice,” Karapatan said.

“We reiterate the call for the immediate release of the Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez, and all political prisoners subjected to these forms of political persecution,” Karapatan added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)