“The recent circus tour of the NTF in diplomatic missions in Europe is a mere frantic attempt by the Duterte government to discredit organizations such as Karapatan, Ibon and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which are exposing the issues and crimes that this regime wants buried in this cycle of red-tagging. But this has serious implications, particularly with human rights defenders on the ground.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan has acted against the accusations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by filing complaints before the United Nations.
The group filed letters of allegation to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on April 5 for cases of “threat, harassment and intimidation, particularly the red-tagging and terrorist-labelling of organizations, in line with the government’s counterinsurgency program.”
In its complaint, Karapatan said that under President Duterte’s government, “there is a surge in the violations on the right to freedom of association and of human rights defenders, including reprisals on those who engage with UN human rights mechanisms.”
Karapatan sent the complaints to UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Mr. Michel Forst, UN SR on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, and UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Mr. Andrew Gilmour.
Systematic smear campaign
Karapatan noted that the smear campaign against their organization and others has become systematic after Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 on Dec. 4, 2018 that created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF).
According to the complaint, the NTF started making rounds in Europe beginning February this year. They began in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on Feb. 14, for a reported meeting with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearance where they formally asked for the delisting of 600 cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances that occurred from 1975 to 2012.
It is in the same meeting where Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., assistant deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the AFP mentioned Karapatan and Ibon Foundation as “organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
“The sources of data have other interests and agenda, that is to really destroy government. We believe that it is so because we already saw the trend where information is coming from Ibon, from Karapatan, these are all organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),” said Parlade pertaining to the data on enforced and involuntary disappearances filed by the groups in the UN.
The NTF also reportedly went to meet Belgian government officials, members of the European Union Parliament and Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator of the European Council on Feb. 18. It is in this meeting where the NTF alleged Karapatan, Ibon Foundation and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines as front organizations of the CPP and called the EU to stop the release of funds to the said groups.
Up to now the AFP has stood by its allegations against Karapatan and others. Just recently in his speaking engagement in Milipol Asia-Pacific 2019 Conference in Singapore, Parlade implicated the International League of People’s Struggle, the chairperson of which is Professor Jose Maria Sison, as part of what he described as International Department of the CPP and referred to Karapatan and others as local organizations.
Meanwhile, evidence to prove that Karapatan and others are front organizations of CPP have yet to be disclosed by Parlade.
“The recent circus tour of the NTF in diplomatic missions in Europe is a mere frantic attempt by the Duterte government to discredit organizations such as Karapatan, Ibon and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which are exposing the issues and crimes that this regime wants buried in this cycle of red-tagging. But this has serious implications, particularly with human rights defenders on the ground,” Karapatan secetrary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
There have already been 47 human rights defenders of Karapatan who were killed in line with their work.
International partner show support
Meanwhile, Viva Salud, a non-government organization in Belgium expressed their support to their partner, Karapatan.
In a statement, the group said they have been working with their partners in the Philippines for decades – financing their programs, building solidarity relations and helping them in other ways.
They added that as an NGO they are aware of their responsibility towards their donors. “We have our own monitoring system and procedures to ensure the quality of their work and the proper use of funds.”
They said that such allegation against groups like Karapatan is nothing new. Such attacks against these organizations and their members have already been arrested for being exposed by former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston in his 2008 report on his mission to the Philippines, they added.
“That is also why we are cooperating with any efforts to refute the accusations against our partners. No evidence whatsoever has been made public to support these accusations against our partners. We are confident that no irregularities will be brought to light,” the group said.
It added, “Our only fear is for the physical integrity and safety of our friends and partners in the Philippines, whose courage and determination in the midst of these attacks is absolutely remarkable and deserves our unwavering solidarity.”
International partner of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Solidagro, also expressed confidence that there are no irregularities in the implementation of the projects that they are funding. The AFP also alleged Alcadev as front organization of the CPP.
In a report, Solidagro, also a Belgian organization said that they conduct on-site visits where they inspect implementation of the program and its financial monitoring is also in place.
Karapatan and other non-government organizations maintained that it is not in any way connected nor they are a front organization of the CPP.
Karapatan also expressed its openness to be audited by the European Union and its member states.
“We will continuously denounce these desperate efforts, altogether challenging these malicious claims and smear campaign against our organization,” Palabay said.