Rights Groups: Latest arrests part of government campaign to silence activists

The arrests of 13 activists and church development workers in the Philippines is part of an ongoing campaign by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, say global and local rights groups.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS and local rights organisation, Karapatan are calling for authorities to drop all charges against and immediately release all the activists who were arrested on July 4 in the southern city of General Santos. 

Philippines National Police (PNP) members and military personnel raided a meeting of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente-Visayas Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD) and presented three arrest warrants, none of which corresponded with any participants gathered.  Regardless, the entire group was arrested and fabricated charges of obstruction of justice were filed against 11 defenders, who were later released on bail, while charges against the remaining two remain unknown.

Among those arrested were Teresita Naul, Karapatan National Council member for Northern Mindanao; Aldeem Yanez of Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI); Datu Jomorito Guaynon, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation chairperson; Ireneo Udarbe, of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas; Vennel Chenfoo, previously of the Kabataan Partylist; Kristine Cabardo of the League of Filipino Students; and Roger Plana, an IFI-VIMROD volunteer.

“The arrests are symptomatic of an ongoing drive by the regime in Philippines to silence human rights defenders and representatives of civil society,” said David Kode, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy lead.

Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017 on spurious grounds, Karapatan has documented the arbitrary arrests of almost 1,000 people on the island of Mindanao. Some 95 of them remain detained.  The actions of the Philippines’ current administration and armed forces is an assault on people’s rights and civil liberties, aimed at pressuring human rights defenders to self-censor. 

CIVICUS and Karapatan also urge the authorities to investigate and prosecute police and military members responsible for this gross abuse of power.

CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, has rated civic space in the Philippines as ‘Obstructed’.


For more information, please contact:

Grant Clark

CIVICUS Communications


Cristina Palabay,

Karapatan Secretary General

+63 917 316 2831