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)

Groups accuse Marcos Jr. admin of having worse desaperacidos record than Duterte

An international group on human rights in the Philippines accused the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration of having a worse record on forcible disappearances than the previous Rodrigo Duterte government.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said the Marcos Jr. government continues the “brazen violation” of human rights carried by the previous regime as it called for the surfacing of two activists reportedly abducted in Gonzaga, Cagayan last May 16.

ICHRP said peasant and youth organizers Michael Cedrick Casaño and Patricia Nicole Cierva are alleged to have been abducted by the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and demanded their surfacing this week as the world marks International Week of the Disappeared.

“[ICHRP] demands an end to the reign of terror on political dissent, and calls for the immediate surfacing of all activists who have been forcibly disappeared by state forces,” ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy said.

Who are the victims?

Patricia Cierva was a former University of the Philippines-Manila leader and Kabataan Party chairperson for the National Capital Region in 2018. She conducted her Development Studies practicum in Cagayan in 2019 and went back to the province to assist farming communities.

Cedrick Casaño meanwhile is a former philosophy student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and is an active campaigner for the “Green Platform” in Cagayan against magnetite sand mining operations. Said operations were damaging the environment that would result to food insecurity and biodiversity loss, the ICHRP said.

Casaño and Cierva are reportedly the 9th and 10 victims of enforced disappearance under the Marcos Jr. administration.

Ninth and 10th Desaperacidos under Bongbong Marcos Patricia Cierva (left) and Cedrick Casaño.
(Northern Dispatch composite image)

ICHRP said the reported incidents of enforced disappearance are alarming and seem to be the trend under the Marcos Jr. government, citing two other Northern Luzon activists Gene Roz “Bazoo” de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan who also went missing since April 28 and last seen in Taytay, Rizal.

Local human rights organization Karapatan also lists Gabriela activists Ma. Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal, National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Ariel Badiang, Negros peasant organizer Leonardo Sermona, Renel Delos Santos, Denald Laloy Mialen and Lyn Grace Martullinas as “desaperacidos” or abductees by state forces.

Ignoring its own laws

Karapatan in a statement marking International Week of the Disappeared said state forces ignore human rights laws such as Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act that has been enacted in 2012.

“Despite such a law, enforced disappearances have, in fact, emerged as a troubling hallmark of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. regime, with a growing number of cases reported within a short span of time,” the group said.

In a mere 10-month period, there have been nine victims of enforced disappearances under the current regime, already constituting 45% of the Duterte regime’s six-year record of 20 cases. Five of the nine victims went missing in the month of April 2023, Karapatan said in its May 26 statement.

Casaño and Cervia bring the number of cases to 11 reported enforced disappearances, or 55% if compared to the Duterte administration’s total of 20.

Karapatan has documented 206 missing under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year rule, 29 under the Benigno Aquino III regime and 20 under Duterte.

The website lists 1,600 forcibly disappeared under the president’s father Ferdinand Sr.’s dictatorship in the 1960s to the 1980s, “none of (whom) has ever been found.”

“Still another statistic identifies the Philippines as one of the 26 countries worldwide with the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances from 1980 to 2009, with as many as 780 documented instances, surpassing countries like Iran (532), Lebanon (320) and Honduras (207),” Karapatan added.

“The spate of Enforced Disappearances during this first 11 months of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is a full proof that the lives of Filipino community activists are at stake,” Murphy said.

ICHRP added that the Philippine Government refuses to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), one of the recommendations by several United Nations member states including Japan, France, Denmark, Italy and Brazil during the Universal Periodic Review in 2022 in Geneva Switzerland last November.

“The Philippine government must surface the disappeared, and ratify and comply with ICPPED”, Murphy said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Canadian foreign minister urged to voice rights violations concerns in PH visit

A group asked the Canadian foreign affairs minister to stop her government’s support to the Philippines’ counter-terrorism campaign they say often leads to human rights violations.

In a May 18 letter, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)-Canada asked Minister Melanie Joly to bring up human rights concerns in her ongoing visit to the country.

“It is important for Canada to stop offering financial, programmatic, and technical assistance to the Philippine Government as it may lead to the oppression of its own citizens through counter-terrorism measures,” ICHRP Canada said in its letter.

Joly is in the Philippines from May 18 to 20 to strengthen bilateral relations between the Canadian and Philippine governments.

The Canadian foreign minister is set to meet with Philippine foreign affairs secretary Enrique Manalo and other Cabinet members on matters including regional security and stability, maintenance of a rules-based international order, Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy and partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ICHRP however urged Joly to ask the Philippine government to stop the red-tagging of Filipino human rights defenders the Philippine military and several government officials accuse of being “enemies of the state.”  

Red-tagging and similar campaigns are “questionable counter-terrorism efforts,” the group said.

“In less than a year since President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. assumed office, eight human rights defenders and community organizers have involuntarily disappeared. By continuing to support the Philippine Government, Canada risks being complicit in serious and widespread human rights violations. Therefore, this issue needs to be addressed promptly,” ICHRP explained.

ICHRP also called on Minister Joly to call on the Philippine government to:

  • Repeal the Anti-Terror Law and recall Executive Order No. 70, creating a National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), stop all activities emanating from this order, including the escalation of smear campaigns and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and specifically, call on Philippine authorities to surface the eight human rights defenders, who have involuntarily disappeared in the past 11 months, alive and safe;
  • End impunity and prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, and
  • Adhere to and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights instruments to which the Philippines is a party and signatory.

ICHRP said its partners have reported that the counter-terrorism policies and programs of the Philippine Government do not meet the international standards for counter-terrorism and human rights obligations.

“Canada’s response to this issue serves as a test of its dedication to protecting human rights and those who defend them,” the group said.

“This is a critical issue that demands prompt attention,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)