Local, int’l groups denounce harassment of Filipino rights defenders

Rights defenders push back against fabricated charges. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)


MANILA – Forty-two human rights groups in the Philippines and abroad stood in solidarity with 10 Filipino human rights defenders (HRDs) as they condemned the ongoing harassment against them.

“We support their continuing pursuit for the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of human rights,” the organizations stressed.

In 2019, human rights defenders sought legal protection from the Supreme Court. Then former National Security Adviser (NSA) General Hermogenes Esperon filed perjury charges against the 10 HRDs. These charges were dismissed on January 9, 2023.

Last month, Esperon filed a petition for certiorari as he assailed the decision to acquit the 10 HRDs. They said that this petition is “renewed judicial harassment.”

Read: Quezon City court acquits human rights defenders of perjury charges

Read: Karapatan denounces renewed judicial harassment vs rights defenders

The 10 HRDs charged are Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Jose Mari Callueng, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, Joan May Salvador, Gertrudes Libang, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo.

The hearing is scheduled on August 29, 2023.

In a statement, the 42 human rights groups said that they are alarmed by the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) which suppresses and persecutes HRDs. “Using the ATA to criminalise human rights workers adds to the long list of harassment orchestrated by the Philippine Government to delegitimize the work of HRDs and human rights organisations.”

Read: 2 rights defenders ask prosecutor to dismiss trumped-up anti-terror law charges

Read: More human rights defenders accused of terrorism – Karapatan

The 42 signatories are Amnesty International, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), AwazCDS, Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (Balaod Mindanaw), Bir Duino, Bytes for All, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Civil Society and Human Rights Network – Afghanistan, Community Resource Centre (CRC), Defence of Human Rights, Forum for Dignity Initiatives, Front Line Defenders, Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal (JCYCN), Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Center (KIRDARC), Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Law and Society Trust (LST), Madaripur Legal Aid Association (MLAA), National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Odhikar, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), People’s Watch, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism (Dakila), Progressive Voice, Public Association “Dignity”, Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), The Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PHILRIGHTS), Think Centre and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

“We urge the authorities to ensure an enabling environment for all HRDs, allowing them to continue their essential work without fear of reprisals,” the signatories said. (JJE, DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

Share This Post