Civil society alarmed by growing attacks on development NGOs

May 27, 2024

The civil society network Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) raises serious concerns about worsening attacks on non-government organizations (NGOs).

Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr is rebranding himself as a human rights supporter but his government is
judicially harassing more development workers and organizations with weaponized anti-terrorism
measures than the previous Duterte administration. This is already disrupting or stopping the delivery
of relief, livelihood and social services to tens of thousands of beneficiaries nationwide.

CPDG reported that at least 57 development workers and 22 NGOs or networks in Luzon, Visayas
and Mindanao are being harassed with spurious charges related to terrorism. Fifty-three (53)
individuals from 20 organizations are baselessly accused of financing or otherwise supporting
terrorism. Another four (4) NGO workers were absurdly charged with attempted murder. Most of
these bogus complaints and cases have been during the current Marcos Jr administration.
Valued members of CPDG are among the civil society organizations being attacked – Amihan
National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan), Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network
(ASCENT), Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), Community Empowerment Resource
Network (CERNET), IBON Foundation, Leyte Center for Development (LCDe), Paghida-et sa
Kauswagan Development Group (PDG), and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern
Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR).

The Duterte administration and in particular its National Task Force to End Communist Armed
Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) pioneered this mode of political repression of humanitarian and development
NGOs. The first case of judicial harassment was against RMP-NMR in December 2019. Since then,
the government has continued to target NGOs giving social and economic services while empowering
communities and building grassroots democracy movements that advocate fundamental social,
economic and political reforms. The systematic attacks cripple development work and are a defense of
elite, oligarchic and corporate rule.

NGOs are baselessly accused of providing financial and material support to terrorism to justify the
freezing of their accounts and property by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). Staff are
also bizarrely accused of attempted murder from participating in gun battles with Philippine Army
soldiers or ambushing a security guard. The accusations are clearly premeditated. The organizations
beleaguered today have long been subjected to surveillance, harassment and vilification with a few
also having members extrajudicially killed.

The government’s actions violate the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association which
are essential components of democracy. The government seeks to weaken and paralyze development
NGOs, hindering the services they provide impoverished communities. The brazen red-tagging also
threatens the life, liberty and security of their staff and supporters, as the Supreme Court affirmed
with its recent decision on the harm that red-tagging does.

The NTF-ELCAC exploits how there are scant effective remedies under a justice system that is both
slow-moving and subject to political influence and pressure. Pres. Marcos himself already defended
this agency recently despite substantial documentation of its abusive red-tagging and explicit
recommendations for its abolition after separate fact-finding missions by two United Nations special

The cumulative work over many decades of the NGOs being attacked have brought real and tangible
improvements to the lives of millions of poor, marginalized and vulnerable Filipinos. The
government’s malicious attacks are hurting the well-being of the communities the development NGOs
serve as well as foments instability and division. The stifling of advocates for structural reforms
compromises long-term poverty eradication efforts by reducing awareness-raising and grassroots
political pressure for positive change.

There is a solid body of international laws and norms to protect humanitarian and development
workers. The Marcos Jr government is however not fulfilling its role and responsibilities under
international law.

On the contrary, repressive so-called anti-terrorism laws are ascendant in the domestic legal system
which is moreover grossly lacking in effective measures to protect human rights defenders.

The attacks on development workers and other human rights defenders under Pres. Marcos Jr recalls
his father’s 21-year martial law regime which targeted tens of thousands of political opponents, critics
and activists. The human rights network Karapatan has for instance already tallied 89 extrajudicial
killings, 13 enforced disappearances, 207 illegal or arbitrary arrests, 799 political prisoners and 1.6
million victims of threats, harassment and intimidation in the first year-and-a-half of the Marcos Jr
administration. This government’s counterinsurgency program has also already resulted in 39,769
victims of indiscriminate firing, 22,391 victims of bombings and 24,670 victims of forced evacuation.
The worsening situation demands urgent action to protect humanitarian and development workers.
Collective efforts by stakeholders will go far in improving the outlook for NGO workers and the
communities they serve across the country.#o#

Stop attacks on NGOs, stand with NGOs!
Assert people’s right to development!
Investigate abuse of anti-terrorism and -terrorist financing laws!
Repeal repressive laws, abolish NTF-ELCAC!







Watch the Press Conference here: