[News] Attacks Mount Against Philippine Human Rights Advocates

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jun 5 10:50:54 EDT 2019


*Attacks Mount Against Philippine Human Rights Advocates*

by John Witeck & Seiji Yamada - June 1, 2019

Approximately 300,000 or one-fourth of Hawaii’s population is Filipino. 
Hawaii’s substantial economic, personal, and family ties with the 
Philippines means that all of us here have a great stake in what is 
happening there. The government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 
has been threatening and attacking a growing number of human rights 
advocates, labor, church and community organizers, and indigenous people 
and the poor.

Over the past three years, an estimated 27,000 Filipinos, mostly from 
poor communities, have been killed without trial by police, military 
officers, and unknown assailants in the name of the Duterte government’s 
so-called “war on drugs.” The killings continue on a daily basis despite 
domestic and international condemnation.

Human rights defenders who have called for an end to the killings have 
been harassed and detained, including Senator Leila de Lima, jailed for 
over two years on politically-motivated and false drug charges. News 
outlet Rappler and its CEO Maria Ressa have been harassed by 11 
government complaints, and Ressa, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, 
and several other journalists and human rights lawyers have been 
publicly accused of working to destabilize the government.

Last November human rights attorney Ben Ramos was shot and killed; he 
was the Secretary-General of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers in 
Negros. At least 34 human rights and peoples’ lawyers have been killed 
since 2016 when Duterte became president. More than 60 farmers have been 
killed in Negros alone, including the 14 farmers massacred in Negros 
Oriental in April; over 205 killings of farmers have been reported 
nationwide over the past 3 years.

In early 2019, peace talks consultant Randy Malayao was assassinated. 
Last May 1 Archad Ayao, an investigator for the Philippine Commission on 
Human Rights, was shot dead in Cotabato City, southern Philippines, by 
an unidentified gunman. On April 22, human rights worker and local 
official Bernardino Patigas was gunned down in Escalante City, Negros 
Occidental. Hours later, several of his colleagues in the Karapatan 
human rights organization, including Karapatan Secretary General 
Cristina Palabay, received threatening text messages from an unknown 
person warning them that they are targeted to be killed this year.

Besides direct physical violence, human rights defenders have been 
“red-tagged” and called “communists” by the Philippine military 
officials, including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the 
rights of Indigenous Peoples. She and others have been accused of 
involvement in “terrorist activities” due to their human rights work. 
Groups that the Duterte government has “red-tagged” include Karapatan, 
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, the Ibon Foundation, the Alliance 
of Health Workers, and the National Union of People’s Lawyers, which has 
been giving legal assistance to political prisoners, activists, and 
relatives of victims of extrajudicial executions sanctioned by Duterte.

The Duterte regime has failed to conduct prompt, effective, and 
impartial investigations into the attacks on human rights defenders, and 
to bring those responsible to justice. Amnesty International (AI) 
recently called on the government to do so, but there has been little 
response. AI has also called on the government to cease “red-tagging” 
and threatening human rights advocates and organizations and to protect 
them from harm.

It is time that we in Hawaii speak up and insist that our 
representatives in Congress –Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, and 
Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Ed Case -- work to halt all aid to the 
Philippine military and police forces while these atrocities, threats 
and jailings continue. Last year, the U.S. government provided $184.5 
million in economic aid to the Philippine military and national police, 
the main perpetrators of the atrocities.

Our Congressional representatives should also urge the US State 
Department to insist that the Philippine government investigate these 
killings and stop its attacks against journalists and human rights 
advocates and cease its extra-judicial killings. These are crimes 
against humanity and gravely threaten the safety and security of the 
Filipino people.


*JOHN WITECK* /is a retired labor unionist and human resources who 
currently works part-time for the State Department of Education and is a 
lecturer at the Honolulu Community College. He has been hosted on four 
occasions by labor, community, and human rights organizations in the 
Philippines and attended International Solidarity events. He edited the 
bimonthly periodical Philippine Labor Alert for over a decade./

*SEIJI YAMADA* /is a family physician practicing and teaching in Hawaii./

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