They appealed to the member-States of the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt and endorse High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report, including recommendations for continuous monitoring and independent and impartial investigation of the human rights situation in the country.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A day after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terrorism Act or Republic Act Republic Act 11479, human rights defenders appealed to the international community to keep an eye on the Philippines.
Beverly Longid, global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMDSL), said that with the signing of the law, the indigenous peoples and their communities are in great danger.
“Our assertions for land rights, against destructive projects like corporate dams and destructive mining has led to the militarization of our territories and countless civil and political rights violations such as killings arrests and torture,” Longid said in a virtual press conference July 4 organized by the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice).
Longid appealed to the member-States of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) to adopt and endorse High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report, including recommendations for continuous monitoring and independent and impartial investigation of the human rights situation in the country.
Bachelet’s office verified the killings of 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women in January 2015 and December 2019.
Like Longid, Fhillip D. Sawali, chief of staff of Sen. Leila De Lima, said the High Commissioner’s report and the joint call of the UN Special Rapporteurs “are moral and legal victories” for human rights defenders in the Philippines.
Sawali said these “should weave impetus to the UN HRC, the International Criminal Tribunal and other instruments of justice such as Magnitsky Sanctions regime in some government to commence their monumental task of exacting real accountability, ensuring redress for victims and their families and signaling a definitive end to the mass atrocities and other serious violations committed by Duterte, his co-conspirators and accomplices.”
De Lima was arrested in February 2017 after she called for an international investigation for the extrajudicial killings under Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
In a statement, De Lima said the Anti-Terror Law is “a prescription straight from a dictator’s playbook.”
Attacks to intensify
De Lima added that the new law “is an added instrument in Duterte’s tool kit to further stifle criticisms and dissent, and muffled calls for truth and accountability for his regime’s abuses and ineptitude.”
For Longid, the Anti-Terrorism Act would further criminalize the indigenous people’s struggle for right to self-determination and defense of their ancestral land.
“The indigenous peoples’ actions against projects without their free prior informed consent can now be interpreted as acts intended to cause intensive damage to a government facility or a private property or can be misconstrued as intended to cause damage or destruction to critical infrastructure such as the on going people’s barricade against Oceana Gold in Nueva Vizcaya and protest against Kaliwa Kanan Laiban Dam in Aurora and Quezon provinces and the New Clark City in Central Luzon,” Longid said.
She added that even humanitarian action in this time of the pandemic is being vilified such as the cases of the Serve the People Brigade in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley and the Lingkod Katribu in Tanay, Rizal.
“Under the law this can be seen as providing support to terrorists. Because to start with, we have been always accused by the military and police as terrorists. And this would deny the indigenous peoples the necessary relief amid the COVID-19,” Longid said.
Longid herself is accused of being a terrorist. She was included in the more than 600 persons listed in Department of Justice’s petition to declare Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorists. Due to public outrage, she and hundreds others were removed from the list.
Llore Pasco, whose two sons were killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, said that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will further escalate the number of human rights violations in the country.
“Before this law, mothers are already anxious and worried. This is much worse than martial law (of dictator Ferdinand Marcos),” she said, adding that suspected “terrorists” will be jailed for a maximum of 24 days.
Pasco labeled Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement at the UNHRC last June 30 as lies.
She asked why the inter-agency panel that will investigate the killings of drug suspects was formed only now, after four years since Duterte assumed office.
Pasco said families of victims of drug-related killings have been “stigmatized, marginalized and even threatened.”
“Those of us who have mustered the courage to request copies of police reports, blotters, autopsies, and other official documents know how much persistence and courage it took to ask for them. We were met with both disinterest and derision. With Duterte’s signing into law of the Anti-Terrorism Act, we find it hard to be hopeful that things are going to get better for human rights under this administration,” Pasco said.
Still, Pasco said the people should still continue fighting. “Laban lang,” she said.