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Global rights group: Duterte committed more violations than Marcos

An international group accused Rodrigo Duterte as not only the new face of martial law in the Philippines but that his government has caused more human rights violations than the 14-year Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

In a statement marking the 49th anniversary of the imposition of Marcos’ martial law, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) enumerated various cases of rights violations in the country.

As Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to counter alleged threats by the then newly re-established Communist Party of the Philippines, Duterte imposed martial rule in Mindanao on the pretext of fighting armed groups that took over Marawi City.

ICHRP said that Duterte’s own martial rule led to an alarming increase in human rights violations that were not limited to the displacement of Moros and the bombing and destruction of Marawi City.

“Indigenous people’s schools (in Mindanao) have been shuttered and their communities remain under attack and occupation by the Philippine Army…While peasants in Negros and Panay islands are being arrested and massacred as they defend their right to till and their ancestral domain,” ICHRP global chairperson Peter Murphy said.

Murphy added that Duterte has also unleashed a war against the poor through his drug war that claimed more than 27,000 lives, including children.

“Worse, the country is now one of the most dangerous places in the world for human rights defenders,” Murphy said.

Unlike most presidents after the 1986 uprising that ousted Marcos, Duterte is an avowed Marcos admirer who permitted the dictator’s controversial internment at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).

Murphy said that justice is yet to be served to the victims of both martial law impositions, as the Duterte government refuses to cooperate with the formal investigation launched by the International Criminal Court based in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“We call on Duterte and his cohorts to end the repression now in the Philippines and to take accountability for all the human rights violations they committed against the Filipino people. We challenge him to face the ICC,” Murphy said.

The ICHRP also called on governments of the international community to stop supporting Duterte through military aid to the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)

Canadian parliament asked to probe role of mining companies in PH killings

MANILA, Philippines—The Canadian government is being asked to look into the role of Canadian mining corporations in the extrajudicial killings of environmental and human rights defenders in the Philippines.

Member of Parliament of Edmonton Strathcona Heather McPherson filed a petition in the Canadian House of Commons on Thursday, Feb. 25, accusing Canadian mining companies of being “irresponsible” in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world.

“Canadian mining companies are perpetrating quite incredibly serious human rights abuses and environmental degradation,” most of them against indigenous populations in the Philippines and other countries, McPherson said in a press conference after the filing.

In her petition, McPherson called out the Ombudsperson created by the Canadian government in 2018 to look into the reported human rights abuses.

“With no ability to compel testimony from witnesses, with no independence… and with no investigations conducted into the abuses, the Ombudsperson, despite the mandate and a budget, is just a figurehead,” McPherson said.

‘Canada is implicated’

The parliamentary petition was based on a signature campaign started last year by MiningWatch Canada and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) that gathered a thousand signatures from concerned Canadians.

“Canada is implicated in the rights abuses through its security assistance to the Philippines and the role that Canadian mining companies play in the country,” MiningWatch Canada and ICHRP-Canada said.

MiningWatch Canada’s Catherine Coumans in a press conference after the filing said that in 2019, over half of all reported killings of rights defenders occurred in just two countries, the Philippines and Colombia.

“Mining was the deadliest sector with 50 defenders killed in 2019, Coumans said, citing data from international human rights organization Global Witness.

Coumans added the Canadian government must look into the operations of Canadian mining corporations in the Philippines as they function in a context of gross violation of extrajudicial killings, repression and human rights violations.

“At times, Canadian mining companies benefit from this context of oppression and impunity,” Coumans said.

OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya

Coumons cited OceanaGold operating in Nueva Vizcaya province she said stands accused of both human rights violations and of having degraded the environment – contaminating and depleting water resources around its copper-gold mine.

“OceanaGold faces strong and persistent opposition by local indigenous people in the village of Didipio, who are supported by their mayor and governor, as well as by provincial and national organizations,” she said.

Coumans added that many locals and their supporters abroad who are opposed to OceanaGold’s operations had been associated with the New People’s Army, including herself.  

Coumans also recalled the villagers had been violently dispersed, beaten and arrested for blockading the mine site when OceanaGold’s 25-year mining permit expired in June 2019.

ICHRP Canada’s Bern Jagunos for her part criticized the Canadian government’s role on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Jagunos said the Canadian government declines to speak publicly against the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, in violation of its own guidelines on supporting human rights defenders especially those who are in grave danger.

“Our organization, ICHRP Canada, has repeatedly requested the Canadian embassy in Manila to meet with defenders who are red-tagged and getting death threats, to visit political prisoners and indigenous communities under attack for their resistance to mining. These are among the tools of intervention in the government’s guidelines to support human rights defenders. Such requests have been ignored.],” Jagunos said.

Jagunos also condemned Canada’s continuing support through trainings of the Philippine military she accused of perpetrating human rights violations.

“ICHRP is calling on the Canadian government to review its relations and programs in the Philippines and to apply human rights criteria in making decisions on funding, bilateral relations and cooperation programs with the Philippine government,” she said.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)