At least 16 faith-based and rights organizations have submitted their reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines. This is in response to the call for submission by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachellet after the UN Human Rights Council adopted the Iceland’s resolution to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines on July 11, 2019.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – This first half of 2020 is crucial for the families and victims of human rights violations in the Philippines as the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights will finally begin its investigation on reported cases of human rights abuses in the country.
Last Jan. 31, at least 16 faith-based and rights organizations have submitted their reports on the human rights situation in the Philippines. This is in response to the call for submission by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachellet after the UN Human Rights Council adopted the Iceland’s resolution to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines on July 11, 2019.
The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) said, “Human rights defenders outlined in their submissions the socio-economic and political context marked by intensified poverty, violations on security of employment, high prices of basic commodities and services, and the continuing plunder of land and resources including that of ancestral domains.”
Moreover, reports also cited documented cases in relation to the ‘war on drugs,’ the attacks on human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, indigenous peoples and members of the political opposition that resulted in the significant and further shrinking of civil and democratic spaces. Violations on the right to freedom of expression, to peaceably assemble and to form associations were also included.
At present, the EcuVoice delegation is at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for the 43rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and Karapatan have already submitted their reports in December last year.
Below are the highlights* of the reports submitted by different groups:
On victims of ‘drug war’ (Rise Up for Life and for Rights)
Eliminating illegal drugs in the country is the campaign promise of President Duterte. Thus, since the beginning of his presidency, thousands of suspected drug users, pushers or peddlers were killed.
The Philippine National Police claims that those who were killed fought back while resisting arrest or “nanlaban” (fought back) in a legitimate police operations. But relatives of those killed say otherwise. Witnesses say the victims were killed vigilante style mostly by men in civilian clothes.
In almost four years of Duterte’s war on drugs, Rise Up’s data showed at least 74 minors that were killed – the youngest was three years old.
They also observed the following: thousands have been detained without due process and on trumped- up charges, majority of those who have been killed or detained are poor, there is discrepancy in the number of people killed in the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs as reported by the police.
On July 19, 2019 the Philippine National Police announced that the number of people killed in three years has reached 5,500. However, this number was higher in May 2019 where the PNP reported 6,600 people or drug personalities killed in anti-narcotics operations from July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019.
The same PNP report also showed that in the last three years, 193,086 drug personalities that were arrested. But Rise Up also noted that this number is different from PNP report in May 2019 that stated 240, 565 individuals were arrested.
In all these killings, Rise Up said Duterte is liable as he made countless statements to justify his administration’s so called “war on drugs.” For one, in his inauguration, Duterte has issued shoot-to-kill orders to the police and then assured them of rewards for each killing.
On indigenous people (Save our Schools Network)
Due to the government’s counterinsurgency program, Lumad schools in Mindanao are being targeted by military operations. The schools were labeled as schools run by communists.
Under Dutete administration, there were 671 attacks against Lumad schools from July 1, 2016 to July 30, 2019 which have affected 16,976 students, 1,376 teachers and 57,844 members of the Parents-Teachers Community Associations.
There are 161 Lumad schools all over Mindanao that were forcibly closed by the government affecting 4,792 Lumad learners. Save our Schools Network also documented 40 cases of forced evacuation in community schools which affected 19,632 students, teachers and community members.
According to SOS Network, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and the open threat of Duterte to bomb Lumad schools in July 2017 have brought unprecedented increase in cases of attacks on schools.
As of December 2019, 30 Lumad school teachers are slapped with fabricated charges filed by the police and the military.
The attacks against Lumad schools, according to SOS Network, is part of Duterte administration’s “whole-of-nation” approach under the Executive Order No. 70. which operationalizes the National Task Force to End Communist Armed Conflict which objective is to end communist insurgency in the country.
On indigenous people (Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination)
Violation of ancestral land rights and self-determination continues under Duterte who openly invited investors to “develop indigenous people’s ancestral lands. “
According to Sandugo, there are contentious projects that were railroaded without free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the affected communities which include the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Kalinga and New Clark City in Tarlac.
-he Chico River Pump Irrigation Project began its construction in June 2018 without FPIC of affected communities . The onerous loan from China covers 85 percent of the total project cost which is P4.37 billion. The loan also charge exorbitant interest rates, and cites patrimonial assets as loan collaterals.
The New Clark City which hosted the 2019 South East Asian Games and covers the 17,000-hectare Crow Valley Military Complex for United States Military exercises, was developed without the FPIC of Aetas of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. They were kept from consultations on the project’s extent even as bulldozers had leveled their crops.
The Kaliwa Dam project will affect Remontado-Dumagats in the provinces of Quezon and Rizal. Despite the rejection of the project by five out of six community clusters, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources still issued Environmental Compliance Certificate to the contractors.
Indigenous peoples also continue to experience internal displacement due to indiscriminate airstrikes and bombing of indigenous communities. From June 2016 to August 30, 2019, 84 incidents of forced evacuations were documented, affecting 31,004 indigenous peoples.
Also under Duterte, several IP leaders were included in a petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations in Feb. 2018. There are also at least 36 indigenous peoples imprisoned at present due to trumped up charges including the chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Northern Mindanao, Datu Jomorito Guaynon. He is slapped with robbery, kidnapping and arson.
On journalists (National Union of Journalists of the Philippines)
Under Duterte administration, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines has recorded at 15 journalists killed because of their work. Monitoring of different media organizations also recorded 154 incidents of attacks and threats against journalists and news organizations from June 30 2016 to Dec. 5, 2019.
The NUJP also recorded several cases of intimidation and online harassment against journalists; 28 incidents of intimidation, 20 online harassment, 12 threats via text messages, 12 libel cases, 10 website attacks, eight slay attempts and eight cases of journalists barred from coverage.
They are also not spared from red tagging by the police or the military officers thus exposing them to threats, harassments, and assassination.
On the political opposition (Makabayan coalition)
Leaders of the opposition have been also been targeted by the Duterte administration.
The report cited Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who was ousted through the quo warranto petition filed by the Solicitor General; Senator Leila De Lima who remains in detention on trumped-up charges, and verbal attacks by none other than the President himself against church leaders and the media.
Members and leaders of party-list groups under the Makabayan bloc became victims of rights violations under Duterte. If not killed, their members were detained due to trumped-up charges, red-tagging and other forms of harassment, threat and intimidation.
Its Senatorial candidate, lawyer and human rights defender Neri Colmenares has been subjected to disqualification attempts from participating in the 2019 elections based on unfounded allegations of having links with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Party-lists representatives were also accused of being members of the underground group and were also subjected to numerous trumped-up charges such as the case of Colmenares, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago among others who were charged with trafficking in persons, recruitment of children into an armed group and child abuse.
On migrants (Migrante International)
Migrante International, a group helping distressed overseas Filipino workers and their families for the past 20 years, has also been subjected to harassment and vilification under the Duterte administration.
The group stated cases of vilification, red tagging, harassment and surveillance. For one, the group was accused of being a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army in symposia and seminars organized by the Philippine consulate officials in Saudi Arabia.
There are still cases of OFWs being abused or worse, killed by their employers abroad. For one, Mary Jean Alberto, an undocumented OFW in Abu Dhabi suffered starvation, exploitation and maltreatment. It was reported that Alberto’s death was suicide, but her family suspect foul play. Meanwhile, Migrante said Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)refused to provide financial assistance to Alberto’s family because of her undocumented status.
The Duterte administration also has not exerted efforts to defend Mary Jane Veloso’s rights. Duterte has not appealed Veloso’s case for pardon or clemency.
On workers (Kilusang Mayo Uno)
One of Duterte’s promise is to end contractualization but the practice still continues.
Aside from calls for regularization and security of tenure, workers also assert their right to occupational safety and health protection of their rights to self-organization.
KMU cited the case of Peerless Products Manufacturing Corporation (Pepmaco) workers who reported that the company did not provide protective gears and safety equipment despite their exposure to harmful chemicals and elements in the production of the surfactant. Pepmaco is a manufacturer of detergent soaps; Nutri Asia workers whose management refused to regularize 714 of its workers; and the refusal of Sumifru Phils. Corp. to recognize the workers’ union.
KMU also cited cases of other rights violations such as the killing of a union leader of the Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (Namasufa), attempted murder and arson of the houses of some members.
Several labor organizers were charged with false such as illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and are currently in detention.
On peasants (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas)
Landlessness still persists under the Duterte administration. Instead of heeding calls for genuine agrarian reform, the government has intensified militarization of peasant communities which resulted in massive rights violations.
The group also highlighted the red-tagging and vilification against them and their members which exposed them to harassment, surveillance, forced to surrender as fake rebel members of the New People’s Army, incarcerated for non-bailable criminal charges or summarily killed and massacred.
The KMP and other peasant organizations and Karapatan have documented more than 240 peasants killed from July 2016 to December 2019. Among the victims are farmers, fisherfolks, farmworkers, peasant women, rural youth, indigenous peoples and land reform advocates. Based on the record of the KMP, majority of the farmers killed were members and affiliates of KMP, national Federation of Sugar Workers, Anakpawis Party-list and their local chapters and allied organizations.
On socio-economic rights
Independent think-tank group Ibon Foundation highlighted the state of economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipinos under the Duterte administration.
According to Ibon, the implementation of Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law has only contributed to high and rising inflation since the start of the year 2018.
Also with the enactment of TRAIN Law, the government has violated the people’s right to public participation, accountability, transparency and access to information. Despite the government’s claim that the law is progressive, Ibon said the it actually reduced the income of the 60 percent of the poorest household.
Ibon also highlighted the Duterte administration’s neglect to the agriculture sector. The policy on rice liberalization also caused drastic cuts in the incomes of rice farmers which resulted to their bankruptcy.
Minimum wage hikes is also least frequent under Duterte and wage increases is the lowest among all post-Marcos administrations. The administration has so far given an average of one hike every 21 months in the capital. Previous administrations gave one wage hike every 16 months.
On civil society (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan)
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) highlighted the government’s attacks against legal dissenters which they said intensified after Duterte issued Proclamation No. 374 declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terrorist organizations.
Bayan said the government focused attacks on all political dissenters which the government deemed as legal fronts of the CPP-NPA. For instance, Bayan was red-tagged through tarpaulins and flyers declaring the group as “communist terrorists.”
Bayan also expressed concern on the use of government funds and resources for the vilification of activists and spread of disinformation. Bayan cited the government news outlet, Philippine News Agency, where articles were published smearing the reputation of activists and legal organizations.
On environmental defenders (Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment)
Environmental group Kalikasan has recorded at least 30 murder cases of environmental defenders under Duterte.
The group said majority of the rights violations committed against environmental defenders are: red-tagging, vilification, threats and harassment. For one, the Department of Justice has included several prominent defenders in a “terror list” while others were arrested and detained for trumped-up charges.
There are also indigenous Lumad farmers confronting mining threats in Sultan Kudarat who went missing.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has also deployed soldiers to become investment guarantees for various big businesses projects. Their presence in communities where big business operates or where they have interests resulted in violence such as in the case of Lake Sebu massacre in 2017. At least eight Lumad farmers who were occupying lands grabbed by timber and coffee plantations were killed by soldiers.
On teachers (Alliance of Concerned Teachers)
Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) were subjected to profiling, threats and intimidation, red tagging and cyberbullying. There are also members who were detained due to trumped up charges.
According to the group, the profiling of the police and the military intelligence against ACT members and affiliates has intensified under Duterte administration. Under the directive of local police chiefs, police have visited schools, offices and even homes of its members to get personal information.
ACT leaders also reported receiving envelopes containing their personal information, photos and private correspondences from suspected military or police agents indicating that they are under direct surveillance.
This broad group of teachers was also red-tagged by the government and labeled its members and leaders as communists. This is to dissuade the public school teachers in Central Luzon to vote against ACT as its sole and exclusive negotiating agent for public school teachers in the region.
According to human rights lawyer and president of the NUPL, Edre Olalia, the UN will start the triangulation of all information gathered to determine which are recurring, consistent, validated and verifiable information.
There is a possibility of country visits by the UN. There will be three missions and each will have 10 working days to conduct interviews or meet with the different groups concerned. In case that the UN missions will not be allowed to enter the country, Olalia said remote fact-finding methodology will be used such as interview, data analysis, statistical report, open source materials, etc.
In June, on the 44th regular session of the Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet will submit the comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. It will be followed by an enhanced interactive dialogue.
*The highlights provided is based on the summaries furnished to Bulatlat by Ecuvoice.