Human Rights Situation in the Philippines Requires Independent Investigation & International Solidarity

On December 10th, International Human Rights Day — the mere concept of human rights remains a point of contention in the Philippines. Between December 7 and 10, the government of the Philippines Department of Justice held a Summit on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, including in the program points on the Anti-Terror Law, children in armed conflict, and protection of rights on social media among other topics. To open the Summit, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that human rights are a high priority for the Philippines, given the human rights treaties the country has joined. 

This recent attempt of the Duterte regime to posture in concern of human rights is a sham. Duterte’s human rights record speaks for itself — one need not delve deep into the regime’s record to see widespread criticism of it’s brutality, killings, and attacks against the Filipino people. 

Even in the weeks leading up to the Philippine government’s Human Rights Summit, two NDFP consultants protected under international humanitarian law were killed; the daughter of Philippine Representative Eufemia Cullamat, a medic in the New People’s Army, was killed and her body desecrated and used as war trophy, again violated humanitarian law. Then, on December 2nd, Amanda Echanis, surviving daughter of recently killed NDFP consultant Randy Echanis, was arrested along with her newborn baby. Today, on International Human Rights Day, the Philippine National Police conducted multiple raise across Manila to arrest 6 unionists and a journalist: Dennise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jaymie Gregorio Jr., and Lady Ann Salem.

The Philippine government, whose longstanding and most recent human rights violations demonstrate their attack on people’s efforts to build genuine peace, has no credibility to hold genuine discussion on human rights. The situation requires independent investigation, and we applaud the global people’s initiative to do just that in holding an International Independent Commission On Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines. Further, we call upon concerned peoples in United States to respond and build international solidarity with the Filipino people against growing tyranny and fascism. 

Justice for Baby River! Free Reina Nasino!

ICHRP-US sends our condolences to the family of Baby River, who died of respiratory problems on October 9 at 3 months old; we condemn in the strongest terms the inhumane treatment of her mother, activist and political prisoner Reina Nasino. 

The Philippine governement’s handling of Baby River and Reina Nasino’s case amounts to no less than torture. 

On November 5 2019, Philippine state forces illegally raided the offices of Bayan and arrested Reina Nasino on false charges and planted evidence. After being jailed, Nasino learned of her pregnancy with her partner and suffered depression and faced the brutal health conditions that were already hazardous prior to Covid-19.  After giving birth to River on July 1, Reina Nasino was not allowed furlough from prison while River remained malnourished and weak. 

Since River passed on October 9th, the National Union of People’s Lawyers and Reina’s family petitioned for a three day furlough for Reina Nasino to mourn. Although the court initially granted three days to Nasino, the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory sent a letter requesting to limit the furlough to two separate three hour visits for River’s wake and funeral procession, citing lack of jail personnel available to handle a prisoner on furlough.  

During the first three hours of “furlough” in which Nasino attended River’s wake, state forces surrounded Reina and did not remove her handcuffs except so she could briefly wipe tears from her eyes. Obstructing free speech, the jail personnel further tried to prevent Nasino from speaking with the media. 

We are enraged and hold the Philippine government responsible for River’s passing. Ultimately Duterte himself is responsible given his backtracking on promises to release political prisoners and Anti-Terror Law which demonizes, imprisons and kills activists. While the Duterte regime continues to outrightly attack the rights of Filipinos and especially activists, we call for widespread dissent and demand the release of all political prisoners. 

ICHRP-US Condemns Attacks on Gabriela-USA, Bayan-USA

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines- US chapter (ICHRP-US) condemns the recent doxxing and terror tagging of the National Executive Committee (NEC) members of BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA through photos released and circulated on Facebook shared by Lorraine Badoy, (Undersecretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office) and FaceBook pages “For the Global Public” and “Enlightened Youth.” 

This is yet another attempt by Duterte and his online “troll army” to intimidate and threaten those who criticize the countless crimes his administration perpetrates against the Filipino people. We extend our solidarity with those who continue to speak out and amplify the cries of the Filipino people.

These attacks aren’t new. 

For the past four years, journalists, politicians, community leaders, and activists in the Philippines and overseas who criticize the Duterte administration have been met with relentless attacks, whether they’re online posts, images, and text messages. But unfortunately, armed forces and paramilitary groups have acted on these threats, arresting, murdering, and disappearing countless individuals. The recent killings of Randy Echanis and Zara Alverez are a reminder that threats can have deadly consequences under this government. With the Anti-Terror Law now firmly in place, Duterte’s eyes are now descending on the growing international movement to hold his administration accountable for their human rights abuses. 

We will not be deterred and will continue to speak out, alongside BAYAN-USA and GABRIELA-USA, against these attempts to silence the democratic voice of the people.

Duterte’s Pardon of U.S. Marine Indicates U.S. Meddling

This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pardoned U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who murdered Jennifer Laude, a trans Filipina woman, in October 2014 in the Philippines. We express our sincere condolences to the family of Jennifer Laude, who have contested Pemberton’s early release. 

Pemberton’s early release is not a matter of an individual’s good behavior, but rather a matter of national sovereignty and foreign intervention. 

The timing of Pemberton’s release does not come by chance. 

Duterte is pardoning Pemberton months after the U.S. State Department approved multiple arms sales to the Philippines worth more than $2 billion. Duterte has since suspended his previous termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, the same agreement under which Pemberton was given special treatment and his own prison cell inside a military camp, separate from the overflowing prisons in the Philippines. 

The Philippine government has decried criticism of it’s anti-terror law and human rights record as a form of interference. The truth is, the United States, as in the case of Pemberton and in the aformentioned arms sales, continues to wield military aid & might to influence Philippine matters. 

This is another case demonstrating why U.S. Congress should pass the Philippine Human Rights Act & suspend military aid to the Philippines — to cease using the Philippines as a pawn of US interests and to uphold human rights.  

Junk the Anti-Terror Law: Introduce the Philippine Human Rights Act

This Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Anti-Terror Bill into law, a move widely criticized by human rights groups and recently by the United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet. 

As ICHRP-US, we unite in solidarity with the Filipino people and vehemently condemn the passing of the law. The legislation allows state forces to broadly label individuals as terrorists without due process, arrest without warrant, detain for up to 14 days, and wiretap for up to 90 days among other concerning provisions. Duterte’s law will serve as a means to further crackdown on activists and terrorize the Filipino people. 

In the context of the Duterte regime’s recent political maneuvers, the passage of the Anti-Terror Law is not random but calculated.

The law comes in wake of a series of foreign policy developments in relationship to the United States — the April notification of major arms sales proposals from the United States and then the suspension of Duterte’s prior termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Along with these developments, We cannot overlook the influence of the United States in the push for the Anti-Terror Law, which in design mimics the increased state surveillance and state power modeled in the U.S. Patriot Act. It is clear Duterte — who led a militarist response to the Covid-19 pandemic and made a “shoot to kill” order against quarantine violators — is exploiting the current medical and public health crisis to push policy changes that benefit the strengthening and extension of his dictatorship. Finally, it seems no coincidence Duterte waited until after the UN Human Rights report was made public to finally sign the bill.

The rise of Duterte’s fascism has not relented, and neither must we relent in our advocacy. With the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, the time is ripe to build upon the grassroots movement for the suspension of military aid to the Philippines and make Congress decisive in introducing a Philippine Human Rights Act that will hold Duterte accountable and withhold US tax dollars from human rights violations in the Philippines. 

As made clear on today’s date “Philippine-American Friendship Day” the United States government places great value on “friendship” with the Philippines. But we oppose any manipulation of friendship being used as a veil for US intervention in the Philippines. Rather, we call for people in the United States to uphold genuine friendship with the Filipino people, which is based on solidarity, not intervention. 

Sign and share these petitions: Junk the Terror Law (tinyurl.com/junkterrorlawnow) & Support the Phililppine Human Rights Act (tinyurl.com/PHRApetition).

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