By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – Progressives here and abroad highlighted the human rights situation in the Philippines as attacks are deemed to escalate in the coming months, following the arrest of seven human rights defenders on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
In an online global protest, Dec. 21, Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox said, “That these were arrested on December 10, when President Duterte was paying lip service to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights takes his duplicity and the brutality of this fascist regime despite international criticism to new heights.”
Fox was kicked out from the Philippines by Duterte after her decades of service for Filipino poor.
Journalist Lady Ann Salem and six trade unionists were arrested during simultaneous police raids, which the police claimed as part of intensified campaign against loose firearms and criminal gangs. Fox, however, said that the arrested journalist and unionists, much like the rest of political prisoners, have been working to make the living conditions of Filipinos better.
Black day for journalists
India-based filmmaker and former officer of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television Nupur Basu said December 10 was a “black day” for their organization,with the killing of Malalai Maiwand, a television anchor in Afghanistan and the arrest of Salem in the Philippines.
Basu noted the attempts to discredit the work of journalists in many parts of the world, including US president Donald Trump’s pronouncement that truthtellers are “enemies of the people.” This, she said, has given world leaders license to stifle press freedom as they do not want the stories to be told.
“We need to come together to stop this,” Basu said.
The arrests of Salem and the six unionists also resonate in countries such as Turkey, where thousands of activists and civilians who are vocal in criticizing the government are sent behind bars.
Meral Cicek, a member of the International Women’s Alliance, said prison has always been a place of resistance in Turkey, where the numbers of political prisoners have also increased in recent years. As of this now, a quarter of the prisoners are considered above capacity.
The Turkey government, Cicek added, is busy building more penal institutions, and Turkey is fast becoming “a big prison.”
Among the political prisoners are about 10,000 Kurdish people, that include both fighters and civilians, such as activists and journalists. Some of their political prisoners were also subjected to complete isolation and are not accessible to lawyers and families for years now.
Political prisoners in Turkey also receive ill-treatment because the government considers them as “enemies without rights,” Cicek said.
“We salute the resistance political prisoners all over the world for free and dignified life,” Cicek said.
As such, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said it is important to keep on re-telling stories of political prisoners, and providing moral and political support to them.
She also called on the International Criminal Court to immediately issue its findings on complaints filed against President Duterte for the dire human rights situation, and undertake preliminary investigation for the crimes against humanity.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr., for his part, estimated that attacks against human right defenders may intensify in 2021, adding that “we have a long way to go before we can win against the fascist Duterte regime.”
Activists based in the United States, India, Germany, Europe, South Korea and Hong Kong are among those who participated in the online protest action.
“The situation will worsen if we are silent… Now is the time to fight, to speak, and to push for genuine social change,” Eman Villanueva, chairperson of Bayan-Hong Kong, said.
The online protest was organized by Bayan, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rings in the Philippines, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Migrante International.