Joint statement: Standing in solidarity with Filipino human rights defenders

We, the undersigned organisations, express our utmost concern over the ongoing criminalization of ten human rights defenders and members of Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in retaliation for their legitimate human rights work.

Elisa Tita Lubi, Karapatan Chairperson; Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General; Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General; Gabriela Krista Dalena, Karapatan Treasurer; Edita Burgos; Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan National Council members; Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Gabriela Chairperson; Joan May Salvador, Gabriela Secretary General; and Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP member, are facing trial before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 on malicious and trumped-up charge of “perjury” in retaliation for their actions seeking legal protection for human rights defenders. The week of January 2, 2023 the verdict will be handed down. If convicted, they could face up to four months or up to more than two years of imprisonment.

On May 6, 2019, due to the alarming increase in violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines, the above-mentioned human rights defenders from Karapatan, Gabriela, and the RMP filed a petition for the writ of amparo (protection order) and habeas data (access to information) before the Supreme Court, seeking protection against threats, attacks, and harassment by government officials. However, the Philippine Court of Appeals denied their petition in June 2019.

Following the rejection of the petition, the authorities responded with retaliatory measures against the 10 human rights defenders. On July 2, 2019, then-National Security Adviser General Hermogenes Esperon, who was named in the petition, lodged a complaint alleging that the 10 defendants had committed “perjury” by stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental organisation at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition they filed before the Supreme Court. While the perjury complaint was initially dismissed for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence”, in February 2020, the Quezon City prosecutor sustained a motion for reconsideration filed by the National Security Adviser and found probable cause to charge the 10 human rights defenders with “perjury”. The charges against the 10 human rights defenders have been widely condemned by regional and global civil society organisations as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Since the “perjury” charges were filed, the Department of Justice has charged at least 16 people, including nuns, linked to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines with financing terrorism under Section 8(ii) of Republic Act 10168 or anti-terrorism financing act.

In the Philippines, human rights defenders continue to face attacks, killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and stigmatisation campaigns by State agents, proxies, supporters and enablers. Since June 2016, when President Duterte took power, a climate of impunity for attacks against human rights defenders worsened. The killings of defenders have rarely been investigated, which increases the vulnerability of those who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in July 2020, further compounded the precarious situation for human rights defenders by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism. The grave human rights situation in the Philippines including the ongoing onslaught facing human rights defenders has resulted in expressions of grave concern from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2020 and more recently a number of Members of the European Parliament. Similarly, in April 2020, 9 UN human rights experts expressed their concern regarding the killings, threats, detentions and criminalization of human rights defenders in the Philippines. Both the OHCHR and the UN human rights experts recommended establishing an international, independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines.

We call on the new President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to distance himself from the previous administration, and firmly commit to respecting the right to defend human rights. President Marcos Jr. should cease the threats and attacks against rights defenders and ensure the protection of their rights, including the rights to life, due process, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. We urge the authorities to put an immediate end to the judicial harassment against Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Joan May Salvador, and Sr. Elenita Belardo. Similarly, we call on the authorities to rescind the Anti-Terrorism Act and adopt the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

We are inspired by the work, courage and commitment of these human rights defenders, and stand in solidarity with all of them.

  Signatories:

  1. ACAT – Germany
  2. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM) - Luxembourg
  3. ALTSEAN – Burma
  4. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)
  5. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
  6. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  7. Associació Catalana per la Pau – Catalonia/Spain
  8. AWID – International
  9. Banglar Manabadhikar Surakhsa Mancha (MASUM) – India
  10. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) – International
  11. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights – Canada
  12. Capital Punishment Justice Project – Australia
  13. Centre for Philippine Concerns - Canada
  14. Changement Social Bénin – Benin
  15. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) – Mexico
  16. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  17. Environmental Defender Law Center – United States
  18. ESCR-Net - International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  19. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany
  20. Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec (PINAY) – Canada
  21. Front Line Defenders – International
  22. Fundación Promoción Humana – Argentina
  23. Greek Helsinki Monitor – Greece
  24. Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) – India
  25. Human Rights First - International
  26. Human Rights Watch – International
  27. IBON International
  28. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – International
  29. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  30. International League of People’s Struggle - Canada
  31. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) – International
  32. Judicial Reform Foundation – Taiwan
  33. KAIROS Canada
  34. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme (VSV) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  35. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada
  36. Lok Shakti Abhiyan – India
  37. London Mining Network – United Kingdom
  38. Malaya Movement – Canada
  39. Malaya Movement – United States
  40. Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras)
  41. Migrante - Canada
  42. Narasha Community Development Group – Kenya
  43. National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Staff (SNAPAP) – Algeria
  44. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement – Sri Lanka 
  45. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – United States
  46. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement – Netherlands
  47. Odhikar – Bangladesh
  48. ONG Construisons Ensemble le Monde – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  49. Project South – United States
  50. Public Service Alliance of Canada - Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada – Canada
  51. Rural People's Sangam – India
  52. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – International
  53. SOHRAM-CASRA – Turkey
  54. Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles (SFVS) – Democratic Republic of the Congo
  55. Tapol – Indonesia
  56. The Open University – United Kingdom
  57. The Uplands Center – United States
  58. United Church of Canada – Canada
  59. Universidad Nacional José Faustino Sánchez Carrión - Huacho – Peru
  60. Viva Salud – Belgium
  61. Women of Diverse Origins - Canada
  62. Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) – International
  63. Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition
  64. World Organisation Against Torture, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Individuals:

  1. Bronwyn Dudley
  2. Emile Kinley-Gauthier
  3. Florfina Marcelino
     Civic space in Philippines is rated as "Repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor