The Council for People’s Development and Governance, (CPDG) strongly condemns intensifying attacks on activists and ordinary citizens by state forces. A wide range of civil society groups, former and current government officials, concerned citizens, international organizations and many others are calling for an end to state attacks on unarmed civilians and the impunity surrounding these.
The Philippine government’s security forces are relentless even amid the coronavirus pandemic and the worst economic and health crisis in the country’s history. The attacks on non-government organizations and people’s organizations are wearing down democratic governance further just when this is so needed to focus the nation’s efforts on relief and recovery.
Last October 2020, CPDG took note of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) resolution on technical cooperation and capacity-building for the Philippines to improve its human rights situation. While expressing reservations, CPDG still hoped that the UN HRC resolution would be implemented with transparency and the participation of civil society in the spirit of real progress and accountability for human rights violations.
The process has however not been transparent. The Department of Justice (DOJ) for instance already submitted its initial review on the conduct of the government’s anti-drug war campaign in a process that shut out civil society and even the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
Human rights violations moreover continue to increase. The rights of Filipinos are blatantly disregarded with more arrests and even brutal killings of civilians asserting their democratic rights. In December 2020, six trade unionists and a journalist were arrested on familiar trumped-up charges in the National Capital Region (NCR). The year ended with nine Tumandok indigenous leaders killed and 16 others arrested in Iloilo and Capiz. They are among communities at the forefront of opposing the environmentally destructive Jalaur mega-dam project.
The impunity with which state security forces attack civil society encourages even more attacks including by private armed groups. In just the first few weeks of 2021, hundreds of farmers and their families in Laguna, Bataan and Bulacan have been harassed, threatened, arrested; their crops and homes have been destroyed by land-grabbers and real estate developers.
These incessant attacks put into question the sincerity of the Philippine government in implementing the UN resolution. Considering all these, we members of CPDG, civil society and concerned citizens:
- Demand that the Philippine government consistently respect, protect, and fulfil the Filipino people’s economic, social, cultural, and political rights according to well-established international and domestic human rights law, mechanisms, and processes. There must be accountability and justice for mounting human rights violations.
- Urge Congress to immediately act on resolutions investigating human rights violations – House Resolution No. 1449 on the Tumandok attacks filed by the Makabayan bloc, and Senate Resolution No. 600 on “unlawful killings” filed by six senators. We acknowledge the Senate hearings on red-tagging but are disappointed that they were not directed to ending the practice of red-tagging.
- Urge the National Council for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) both at the national and local levels to immediately act on the calls for justice by the Tumandok and other IP communities elsewhere in the country affected by the government’s counter-insurgency operations; to uphold IP rights to free, informed, and prior consent, and to self-determination.
- Urge the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and other responsible government agencies to investigate the worsening harassment of farmers by real estate developers and their private armies.
- Demand the government to drop all trumped-up charges against activists and to immediately release the arrested Tumandok IPs, farmers, and all political prisoners especially the old and sickly, pregnant, and nursing mothers.
- Urge local government authorities to support victims of human rights violations and to join calls for accountability and justice.
- Ask the Supreme Court to declare the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 unconstitutional and therefore void. We see this law as worsening red-tagging, enabling greater repression of activism, and hindering development work among underserved sectors and communities.
- Support the conduct of an independent international investigation on human rights violations committed by state security forces against civilians in the course of its so-called drug war and counterinsurgency campaign.
- Ask the government to resume peace negotiations not just to reduce the level of armed conflict but also towards addressing the basic social, economic, and political problems that create the conditions for this.
There are many institutions and agencies that can work together to uphold the social, economic, cultural, and political rights of all Filipinos. We are very much willing to work with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sub-Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which are all deeply concerned with achieving the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). #eof#