Anniversary of Martial Law Under Marcos

OTTAWA, Canada—Today the Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP) is marking the 48th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines. In 1972, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law, plunging Philippine democracy into darkness for 14 years. He took control over the entire government, dissolved Congress, and changed the constitution so he could rule without limits.

What is martial law? It means the army controls the government. Marcos increased the size of the military, gave them the power to arrest and indefinitely detain people without due process. He immediately jailed his political opponents, Congressmembers, workers, students, farmers, clergy and journalists. 

Marcos closed down newspapers and television networks. Information was censored, and Filipinos were placed in the dark about their government’s actions.

Thousands were killed, and tens of thousands were arrested and tortured. The military could arrest someone without a warrant, and jail them for as long as they liked. The dictator’s family became rich, while workers everywhere in the Philippines became poor.

We remember this day because Philippine democracy is again under threat, this time by Rodrigo Duterte, who has again empowered the police and military to arrest people without due process and to kill thousands with impunity, including human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, lawyers, trade unionists, and the poor. Journalists have been arrested and murdered, and established media organizations have either been forced to close or are under constant threat and harassment. He funds marketing companies to flood social media with propaganda, and pays trolls to send death threats to critics and human rights defenders online. Duterte signed a bill giving him and his cronies the power to designate anyone they don’t like as a terrorist, allowing them to wiretap private conversations, detain people without a warrant, and try suspects in kangaroo courts.

Why should Canadians care about this? Filipino Canadians are one of the largest Asian communities in Canada. Duterte’s actions directly affect them and their families, and so everything possible must be done to keep them safe. Canada has mining and business interests in the Philippines. Where are their human rights interests? Why does foreign minister Champagne refuse to denounce these attacks on democracy? We must join the UN in condemning these human rights abuses.

So again, why should we care? Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a threat to democracy anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere. We are living in an age of democratic decay; leaders like Trump, Modi, Bolsonaro, and Duterte all flout the law, attack their political enemies and spread disinformation, while trying to control their populations through force—essentially using their democracies to kill their own people. Some of our so-called leaders are taking a peek and flirting with these ideas. Maybe they think they can get away with it while no one is watching. But guess what? We are all watching.

Authoritarians seem to forget that dictators have a shelf life. Marcos thought he had complete control, but he underestimated the People Power Revolution. Filipinos took to the streets, demonstrating and rebelling against the regime. Significant international pressure forced the regime to acknowledge their human rights abuses. They forced the regime to hold elections. What happened to Marcos? The dictator—His Excellency, as he liked to be called—ran away to Hawaii in 1986. Years of hard work and organizing by Filipinos and their international allies overturned Marcos and his martial law. 

We remember this day because today we are in similar conditions, with yet another bloodthirsty authoritarian in the Philippines, this time with a social media following and a phony drug war. For the sake of our friends, our loved ones, our democracies, and for those we have not met, we look at this day and say NEVER AGAIN!

Statement condemning the pardon of murderer Joseph Scott Pemberton

OCHRP condemns another of Dutete’s attacks on due process and the criminal justice in the Phiilippines. While on the on hand Duterte uses the criminal justice system of the Philippines to imprison the innocent, on the other he uses his power as president to function as an American puppet pardoning US service man involved in murdering transgendered Filipino Jennifer Laude in 2014. 

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, an anti-tank missile operator from New Bedford, Massachusetts, was one of thousands of US and Philippine military personnel who participated in annual joint military exercises in the Philippines in 2014.

Pemberton and a group of other marines met Laude and her friends at a bar in Olongapo after the completion of the Balikatan military excercises. Laude was later found dead in a motel room where witnesses said she and Pemberton had checked in. A witness told investigators that Pemberton had admitted he had choked Laude to death after discovering she was transgender.

Pemberton was subsequently convicted after intense public outrage put political pressure on the Philippine government for justice. His pardon by Rodrigo Duterte reflects the continued subservience of the Philippine President to US control. Furthermore, he intentionally chose a marginalized victim to rob of justice, likely hoping for apathy about anti-trans hate crime to limit public outcry. Let us prove him wrong.

Police ‘Terrorist’ Gallery Targets Activists in Davao

Jul. 24, 2020 MARA S. GENOTIVA

Govt Red-Tagging of Davao Political Activists. Source: Karapatan

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Progressive groups cried foul over posters spreading in different areas of the city this week that tagged their leaders as terrorists, as the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) takes effect this week.

Printed on top of the poster is “WANTED” with photos of various prominent activist-leaders in the region tagging them as “Terrorist Recruiter.” The posters bear no signatories.

The leaders are Carlo Olalo, Romelito Pablo and PJ Dizong from the labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno Southern Mindanao Region; Cora Espinoza, Gabriela-SMR Vice-Chairperson and a former commissioner of the Philippine Commission on Women; May Ann Sapar of Gabriela-SMR; Tony Salubre,Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-SMR Spokesperson; Jong Monzon, PASAKA Secretary General; Pila Barredo, union secretary of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Davao Region and Jay Apiag, Karapatan-SMR Secretar General.

The Regional chapters of Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Karapatan issued statements of condemnation on this propaganda. 

Jay Apiag said in a statement that the red-tagging and terror-tagging tactics against activists are “nothing new,” but the anti-terror law puts their lives at risk.

“With this recent terror tagging of activists and me as a rights champion, I am feeling a sense of danger in my security as I usually attend court hearings of several political prisoners and leading quick response teams whenever there are reported cases of rights abuses in various communities we serve,” said Apiag in a message sent to Davao Today.

The group said the law will only embolden authorities to commit more human rights violations with more impunity.

Under the ATA, suspected individuals can be arrested without a court warrant and they can be detained for a maximum of 24 days without charges being filed against them.

Apiag said that the intensified terror-tagging on the onset of the implementation of ATA refutes the claims of officials that activists and their right to expression and advocacies are safeguarded.

“What this show is the clear purpose of the law, and that is to silence critics and dissenters, and even citizens who want to raise their valid complaints to the government. It does send a warning, but we are not backing off. We will not choose silence,” Apiag added.

Kilusang Mayo Uno-SMR Secretary General Carlo Olalo slammed the incident as a “desperate act of the state” to quell the growing dissent of the public for the “government’s incompetent response” to the health crisis.

“Instead of addressing the real problems aggravated by the pandemic such as unemployment and economic crisis, the government through its armed forces has more time in silencing its critics,” Olalo said in a phone interview.

Olalo added that they have already sought help from their counsels for appropriate legal actions. 

The youth group Anakbayan-SMR also denounced the smear campaign and assailed that the government should have instead allocated its resources to implement mass testing and financial assistance for those affected by the pandemic.

The group also urged residents to document and voluntarily remove any malicious materials vilifying legitimate organizations that can be seen in Davao City. (davaotoday.com)

REPORT CARD ON DUTERTE’S 2020 SONA

Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP)

REPORT CARD ON DUTERTE’S 2020 SONA

July 27, 2020

This is the 5thState of the Nation address of the Duterte government.  A number of us from Canada were present at the 1stSONA of Duterte back in 2016, it was a time of hope, when it seemed after decades of war peace was a real possibility.  Progressive activists were given Cabinet posts. It was a time when it appeared there was the possibility of real and open negotiation with the National Democratic movement.  

Now five years later the tyrannical Duterte regime stands on a mountain of corpses a product of its War on Drugs, War on the Poor and War on Dissent. 

We can grade the Duterte Regimes Performance over the past five year: 

An increasingly fascist regime: Cabinet positions are given primarily to ex police and military officers; it is a military junta in all but name. Grade: Fail 

On an independent Judiciary – Duterte impeached the chief justice of the supreme court because he was uncomfortable with some of her positions in the war on drugs – Grade fail.   He also had human rights lawyers including Atty Benjamin Ramos in Negros murdered by the military – The ongoing denegation of the legal system and attacks on the judiciary can only be Graded: double fail. 

On freedom of the Press – more journalists have been murdered than under any other Philippine regime.   Prominent journalists such as Maria Resa have been arrested multiple times.  The largest opposition TV network was closed down by the Duterte Regime.  This judicial and political harassment of the press merits a Fail. 

On political Prisoners – The Duterte Regime has imprisoned more than 300 political activists, and currently 610 political prisoners languish in Philippine prisons.  For ongoing abuse of the judicial system to harass regime opponents Duterte gets a Fail.  

On political space – Every day the Duterte regime becomes more tyrannical.  Killings of activists, peace negotiators, indigenous peoples, environmental activists, journalists, lawyers, labour organizers, and many other sectors have become commonplace in his dirty war on the defenders of people’s rights.  Negros has been particularly hard hit with 3 killing cycles of activists in the last year – Graded a Fail on creation of political space and toleration of dissent.   Recently the Duterte Regime doubled down on repression passing its draconian anti-terror legislation so that it can further harass and murder opponents with impunity. Grade: Double Fail

On the war on Drugs – 27,000 dead.  No one is held accountable; suspects are killed by the police and military with impunity – Earning a massive fail for a grade.  Further, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights recent report further condemned the culture of murder and impunity in the police and military – double fail. 

On the Health Front – The Duterte Regime has resorted to a military solution to combat the virus.  Their strategy of no testing and lock down has not stopped the pandemic which now rages across the country.  Fail

On the Peace Process – the Duterte Regime suspended Peace Negotiations with the NDFP and tore up nearly 25 years of agreements.  It subsequently unleashed a reign of murder and terror across the Central Philippines trying to snuff out people’s resistance.  It murdered peace negotiator Randy Malayo – in February of last year and arrested more than a dozen peace negotiators in violation of agreements it has previously signed – fail.  

On the War on Islam: Duterte destroyed Marawi the largest Islamic city in the Philippines in 2017, up to 1,000 civilians were killed, since then more than 250,000 residents have been living as refugees with no right of return, their homes bulldozed.  For its abuse of the Muslim minority population Duterte is graded a fail.  

As Human Rights advocates we want President Duterte to:

STOP THE LOCKDOWNS: Start universal and free mass testing and mass tracing to combat the corona virus and provide adequate PPE to all health workers!

STOP THE WAR ON DRUGS: Duterte’s alleged war on Drugs is a War on the poor.  End Impunity, Stop the killings stop the slaughter!

END DEFACTO MARTIAL LAW AND RESTART PEACE TALKS WITH THE NDFP: Address the roots of social conflict in the Philippines: end landlessness, joblessness, poverty and human rights violations in the Philippines!

STOP THE TYRANNY AND STOP THE KILLINGS of those who are defending our rights and peoples’ rights!

REVERSE THE ANTI-Terror Legislation and stop the mass terror against the Filipino People!

Council of Global Unions Statement on the Suppression of Democratic Rights in the Philippines

21-07-2020

We register alarm over the passage of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti- Terrorism Act of 2020. This law could easily be abused. While human security, the supposed aim of the anti-Terrorism Act, is a real concern, the same should not be pursued through undemocratic means. The Act undermines due process as it empowers the Executive Branch to identify “terrorist” individuals or groups and to conduct warrantless arrests for at least fourteen (14) days. With its deplorable record of human rights violations in the past four years in its “war on drugs”, the Philippines does not need another legal instrument to legitimize illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings.

We support the initiative of NAGKAISA (United Coalition), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), SENTRO and other labor groups to petition the Philippine Supreme Court to stop the implementation of this law “for being inimical to workers’ interests and for being unconstitutional”.

In the ITUC Report of 2020, the Philippines is included in the top 10 most dangerous countries in the world for workers. The Philippine trade union movement can attest to the alarming level of repression of workers’ rights in the country. There have been too many unexplained disappearances and killings of labor leaders and members. Moreover, in its attempt to silence dissident labor leaders, the Philippine government has resorted to ‘red-tagging’. This tactic has not only jeopardized the lives of labor leaders, it has also undermined efforts of trade unions to hold employers and government accountable for anti-labor actions since these efforts are always maliciously exposed as bearing ‘communist sentiments.

The United Nations and the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations have on several occasions expressed disquiet about government’s use of anti-terror and other public order legislation to suppress human rights. The Anti-terrorism Act is a violation of ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and other international human rights obligations.

In the context of COVID-19, the situation of Filipino workers has worsened. The Philippine government itself projects that some 10 million Filipinos will be out of jobs by the end of this year. Hundreds of thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are also expected to return to the country due to job loss.

The health pandemic has also been used as a pretext by many employers to cut costs and further labor flexibility. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has bolstered employers’ efforts to circumvent existing labor standards by issuing advisories that allow employers to negotiate new terms of work. Under Labor Advisory No. 17 issued May 16, for example, employers are allowed to do the following: transfer employees to another branch or outlet of the same employer, assign employees to another function or position in the same office or branch, reduce normal working hours, rotate jobs, and, partially shutdown some units while continuing work in other units. Needless to say, employers have been given the elbow room to “negotiate” reduction of pay along with these flexible work arrangements. The pandemic has also been used by some to justify or deliberately conduct union-busting activities. For example, at Coca-Cola Philippines three union leaders who were asserting the right of their members to a safe workplace were terminated for “economic sabotage”. The government is also using the pandemic to attack informal sector workers who are most vulnerable, denying them the right to livelihood. The government is attempting to phase out jeepneys – a move that would deny the livelihood of more than 500,000 transport workers around the country.

On top of this economic situation, the Philippines now has the second highest number of COVID- 19 positive cases in Southeast Asia. Yet, the actions of government do not reflect the worsening situation. Instead of focusing on boosting its public health system and planning for economic recovery, the Philippine government has focused its energies on self-serving political agendas such as the anti-terrorism law and the closure of the ABS-CBN, the largest TV network in the country. The latter has resulted in the firing of at least 11,000 workers and the government does not seem to be disturbed by this massive job loss. Displaced workers of ABS-CBN have thus very little chances of finding new jobs. Ever since the Congressional rejection of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal on July 10, trade unions have been rallying the Philippine government to provide assistance and safety nets to displaced ABS-CBN workers. The government’s denial to renew its permit to operate, after Rappler editor Maria Ressa was convicted of libel, is clearly an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The situation of workers in the Philippines is beyond appalling. The attacks on the jobs and lives of workers must stop! We call on the Philippine government to rethink its current priorities and to focus instead on measures that will contain the pandemic and alleviate the lives of those severely affected – especially those of displaced Filipino workers, in the country and overseas.

We remain in solidarity with the Philippine trade union movement in its fight against increasing authoritarianism. We pledge our continued support for the efforts of Filipino unions and workers to restore democracy and peace in the country.

https://www.ituc-csi.org/council-of-global-unions-statement-philippines

Filipina activist named one of world’s young outstanding politicians

Jul. 18, 2020 KEN E. CAGULA – Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Kabataan Party-list (KP) Rep. Sarah Elago, is the lone Filipino to be named one of the outstanding young politicians from across the world this 2020.

The 30-year old lawmaker is among the five young leaders to receive the One Young World Politician of the Year, an award given annually to young politicians between 18 to 35 years old for “using their positions to have a positive impact on young people in their communities and countries.”

“Philippines and Kabataan represent! Malugod na ibinabahagi ng @KabataanPL ang pagkilala na ito sa lahat ng kabataan na nagsusulong ng bagong pulitika ng pag-asa, pagkilos at pagbabago na naglilingkod sa sambayanan nang buong husay at katapatan,” Elago wrote in her Facebook post.

Other awardees are Erik Marquardt from Germany, Joanah Mamombe from Zimbabwe, Michael Tubbs from the United States, and Zarifa Ghafari from Afghanistan. They will be presented with the award at the One Young World 2021 Summit in Munich, Germany on April 23-26 next year.

Elago is on her second term as representative of KP, which is also a member of the progressive Makabayan bloc. She was the youngest female legislator of the Philippine Congress during her first term at the age of 26.

The One Young World, a UK-based non-profit organization, noted that Elago is the principal author of the Comprehensive Free Public Higher Education Bill in 2017, working along with various youth organizations for the passage of a landmark law benefiting around two million college students each year since 2018.

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The group also recognized Elago as the youngest of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, a member of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, and as an ambassador for various non-profit organizations.

Elago is also the poorest member of the House of Representatives, with a net worth of Php 85,400 based on her 2018 Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. (davaotoday.com)

Open Letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs from Concerned Canadians

July 17, 2020

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, MP 

Minister of Foreign Affairs 

House of Commons Office 

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6 

Dear Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, MP 

We are writing this letter to raise alarm regarding the gravity of the human rights situation and rapid erosion of democratic space in the Philippines. We ask that you take immediate action to address it. 

On June 4, 2020, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet issued a draft report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation in the Philippines.1 The report identifies human rights violations arising from policies and laws related to public order and national security. On June 25, 2020, eleven United Nations human rights experts declared that “the human rights situation in the Philippines has now reached a level of gravity requiring a robust intervention by the UN.”

This report was issued for the 44th UN Human Rights Council session in June 2020 and follows the adoption of the UN Human Rights Council resolution (41/2) last July 11, 2019 on the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

We are writing to you to request that your office support the UN High Commissioner’s report, and that you aid in the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor and investigate human rights violations. We would very much appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and to discuss our concerns and the recommendations in this letter. 

Under the Duterte government, attacks against human rights defenders and journalists have increased, while rights violations in relation to the drug war continue. In the past two months, human rights defenders like peasant leader Gloria Apique and relief worker Jory Porquia were killed. Rights workers and people in the church sector continue to face falsified (referred to as ‘trumped-up’) criminal charges such as the case of Karapatan, Gabriela and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Instead of releasing prisoners, including political prisoners, to decongest jails and to mitigate the impact of the pandemic inside these facilities, rights defenders such as elderly Teresita Naul have been arrested and put in jail. 

The human rights situation in the Philippines has deteriorated even further as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency measures employed by government, supposedly to address the impacts of the pandemic, have been used as pretext for further constriction of democratic and civic spaces in the country. More than 30,000 individuals have been arrested for allegedly violating the government’s ‘enhanced community quarantine’, for actions such as not wearing face masks or for going outside one’s home for valid reasons. Detainees have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Many of the documented cases show that those arrested were daily wage earners and homeless persons, who were merely asking for food aid from the government. 

The rights to freedom of speech and of expression have also been increasingly curtailed through the arrest and penalization of ordinary individuals who express discontent with government measures regarding the pandemic. On July 10, 2020 ABS-CBN, the country’s largest news network, was shut down after being critical of Duterte’s government. 

The need for support is now more urgent following the passage of the Anti-Terror Act on July 3, 2020. This law is expected to come into force on July 18, 2020. Families of victims of the war on drugs, peasant and indigenous communities, trade unionists, lawyers, faith-based formations, human rights defenders and the political opposition in the Philippines have raised deep concern about dangerous implications the Act will have on the worsening climate of impunity under President Duterte. Bachelet’s report indicates that the Act would “weaken human rights safeguards, broadens the definition of terrorism and expands the period of detention without warrant.” In a press release following the ratification of the law, members of EcuVoice expressed their “grave concerns that the new, draconian measure will only worsen the Philippine government’s human rights abuses and violations.”

In light of the grave concerns raised in Bachelet’s report and the worsening human rights situation, we urge your office to: 

1. Publicly support Bachelet’s report to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and its recommendations. 

2. Convey to the Members of the Human Rights Council that Canada strongly supports and urges immediate action towards the creation of a mechanism for the independent monitoring and investigation on the rights situation in the country, including ensuring that Special Procedures mandate holders have access to the country. 

3. Suspend all support for and cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), including training, and redirect Canada’s assistance towards strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders and organizations. 

4. Suspend the sale and transfer of all military and defence equipment to the Philippine government and invoke the Special Economic Measures Act which can be used to prohibit the transfer or trade of goods to a specific country because of their human rights record.

5. Respond to the recommendation of the eleven United Nations human rights experts that states that Member States initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses. 

Thank you for your consideration, we look forward to receiving your response to these urgent concerns, including an opportunity to meet and discuss these recommendations 

Sincerely yours, 

Alliance for Peoples’ Health 

Anakbayan Canada 

Anakbayan Toronto 

Andrea Mann, Director of Global Relations, Anglican Church of Canada 

BAYAN Canada 

Beaconsfield Initiative 

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) 

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 

Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights 

Filipino – Canadian Writers and Journalists Network 

GABRIELA British Columbia 

International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines – Canada 

International League of Peoples’ Struggle in Canada 

ICHRP Quebec 

KAIROS-Canada 

KAIROS – British Columbia and Yukon 

Migrante British Columbia 

Mining Watch 

Mission Inclusion 

National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) 

Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) 

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) 

Stop the Killings Network in the Philippines – Canada Network 

Sulong – University of British Columbia 

Unifor 

United Church of Canada 

United Steelworkers (USW) 

Arrest of Balingasag 7 draws condemnation from indigenous groups

Jul. 02, 2020 DAVAO TODAY

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Lumad organizations and their advocates are calling for the immediate release of the seven Lumad who were arrested in a raid in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental and are facing what they claim as trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Refuting police report that the detained Lumad are New People’s Army (NPA), the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization in Northern Mindanao said the “Balingasag 7” are staunch defenders of their ancestral lands. 

Arrested were Pilutong Langka, Pablita Hilogon, Reynaldo Ayuma, Dandi Hilogon, Bambi Hilogon, Padod Ayuma, and Glenn Hilogon.

Kalumbay said in their statement that authorities that conducted the raid allegedly planted firearms in the houses of the Lumad to justify the arrest. Similar “dirty tactics” were used to arrest members of other leaders and members of Lumad and peasant organizations in the region, the group added.

READ: Seven Lumad Arrested, Tagged as NPA In Misamis Oriental

Kabataan Party-list Northern Mindanao also belied the authorities’ claim, saying they had met these Lumad who staged a campout at the Provincial Capitol grounds in Misamis Oriental from 2018 to 2019 because of militarization that displaced them from their village. The group witnessed how the Lumad were “disregarded” by the local government on their appeal to pullout the military troops from their communities.

The Balingasag 7 are charged with violating Republic Act 10591 for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and others with violation of Republic Act 9516 for illegal possession of explosives, said Lt. Noel Oclarit, deputy team leader of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-10 in Misamis Oriental.

The seven are transferred to the provincial jail and will face the complaint raised to the local court, Clarit added.

Oclarit claimed an intelligence report alleged that Langka is an NPA fighter known as “Ka Rex.”

More attacks with Anti-terror bill 

Sandugo, a national alliance of Moro and Indigenous People, denounced the arrest of Balingasag 7 and said this could worsen if the Anti-Terrorism Bill becomes a law.

“Even without the bill, our constitutional rights to freedom of speech, information, and dissent have repeatedly been violated by government forces with impunity. We are certain that the Anti-Terror Bill will only further embolden such abuses of power,” the group said. 

Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, a Manobo Lumad, also noted that there have been a series of abuse and arrest against members of progressive groups in the country amid the looming threat of ATB, heavily criticized due to its “unconstitutional” provisions.

Pag naisabatas ang Terror Bill, lalo pang lalala ang pandarahas ng estado sa mga Lumad, magsasaka, LGBTQ+, at iba pang progresibong grupo. Itigil ang pagyurak sa karapatan naming mga katutubo (If the Terror Bill becomes a law, it will worsen the attacks of the state on the Lumad, farmers, LGBTQ+ and other progressive groups. Stop trampling the rights of the indigenous people),” Cullamat said.

President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the Anti-Terrorism Bill early this June by certifying it as an urgent legislation, despite criticisms from the opposition and legal experts and professors on its provisions. The bill will lapse into law on July 9 unless the president vetoes it.

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) demand an independent investigation on the arrest to deliver “justice and accountability”, as they expressed strong concern to this “new wave of State-sponsored crimes to the people.” — With reports from Ken Cagula and Jigger Jerusalem (davaotoday.com)

Indigenous, Moro groups fear Anti-Terror Law repeating past abuses

Jul. 06, 2020 KEN E. CAGULA

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Indigenous Peoples and Moro groups denounced the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which they fear would put them into more danger as experienced in the past.

Recalling that even long before the law was signed, Beverly Longid, officer of the national minority group Katribu, said that the government has already “openly accused” Lumad leaders as “terrorists or communist supporters or sympathizers.” 

Longid pointed out that military intelligence have referred to indigenous communities and territories nationwide as “rebel areas”, “communist infested” and “NPA strongholds” while branding Lumad schools as “rebel schools.”

“This has led to the militarization of our territories and countless civil and political rights violations of killings, arrests, and torture,” she said.

The Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region also warned that the anti-terror law could be “weaponized” against Lumad communities in Mindanao who are protecting their ancestral lands.

“Under this law, it would be easy for us to be labelled as terrorists for declaring ‘pangayaw’ (tribal defense) against those who want to plunder our ancestral lands,” the PASAKA-SMR said.

“It is also easy to call us terrorists for joining protests to demand to stop the militarization of our communities which the government has not yet resolved,” they added.

President Duterte signed the law a day after calls from the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority appealed for its rejection.

Many of the Moro people in Mindanao have already been victims of the government’s counter-terrorism campaign in the past, said the group Suara Bangsamoro.

The group recalled the incidents in the early 2000s where the government declared Moro areas as the “second front in the global war on terror” following 9-11 and the spate of Mindanao bombings.

“(There was) terror-tagging which resulted to discrimination and rights violation such as illegal arrest, detention, filing of trumped-up charges, airstrikes and mortal shelling to communities accused of coddling terrorists, and categorizing organizations and assertion for self-determination as terrorism,” the group said. 

Suara Bangsamoro said that the anti-terror law is “worse” than previous campaigns and laws on counter-terrorism.

“If they made the destruction of Marawi City and other Moro communities legal, and disregarded the deaths of children who died due to the military’s mortal shellings on communities–they can further do it to the wider number of people,” the group said.(davaotoday.com)

Maria Ressa and an attack on the free press in the Philippines

Maria Ressa speaks during a press conference after attending the court's verdict promulgation in Manila.
Maria Ressa victim of Duterte’s war on Press Freedom

One of the most prominent journalists in the Philippines has been convicted of ‘cyberlibel’ in a court process condemned by human rights groups. Journalist Carmela Fonbuena in Manila describes the chilling effect the verdict has had on free expression 

Maria Ressa is one of the most prominent journalists in the Philippines with decades of experience in print and TV reporting. She is also executive editor of Rappler, an online news site. 

In June she was convicted in a criminal court of the recently created offence of ‘cyberlibel’ over an article published in 2012 – before the law had come into effect. The article had subsequently been updated to correct a spelling error, allowing prosecutors to argue it had been republished. 

It was the latest of many incidents that human rights groups have pointed to as evidence of an attack on the free press in the Philippines under its populist president Rodrigo Duterte. 

Journalist Carmela Fonbuena has worked for Rappler under Maria Ressa and describes an inspirational figure who has supported countless young reporters like herself. She tells Rachel Humphreys that, despite the ruling which is now being appealed by Ressa, Rappler will continue fearlessly reporting on the government’s activities and its deadly ‘war on drugs’. 

Ressa has vowed to continue fighting. She says: ‘Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you have as a Filipino citizen. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything.’

Listent to the Guardians Podcast on the issue using the link below.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/audio/2020/jul/06/maria-ressa-philippines-attack-on-free-press-podcast