Paris-Geneva, September 8, 2017 - Authorities in the Philippines must ensuregreater protection of human rights defenders amid a recent surge of killingsand attacks against them, the Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders (FIDH-OMCT) said today.
Inrecent days, at least four representatives from different communities, -peasant and small-scale miner groups - have been shot dead. More than 50 humanrights defenders - mostly peasants or indigenous persons - have been killedsince President Duterte assumed office in June 2016, according to human rightsNGO Karapatan (a member of OMCT’s SOS-Torture Network). Karapatan hasdocumented the killing of more than 660 human rights defenders in the last 16years in the Philippines.
“While human rights defenders in the Philippineshave been traditionally vulnerable to killings, threats, and attacks,President Duterte’s anti-human rights rhetoric and blatant disregard for humanlife have created a more hostile environment for defenders”,said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.
PresidentDuterte has repeatedly threatened to kill human rights defenders. The latestsuch instance was on August 16, when he suggested that human rights activistswere “obstructing justice” and urged police to “shoot them”.
“PresidentDuterte’s Government, like any other PhilippineGovernment, has a legal obligation to protect human rights and human rightsdefenders. His discourse that literally encourages violence against defenders -the very people who stand up for human rights, social justice, and an inclusivesociety - must stop”, saidOMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.
OnAugust 23, 2017, Mr. Roger Timboco,a member of the peasant group KAMMAO (Kahugpungansa mga Maguuma sa Maco ComVal), was shot dead in Mawab, Compostela Valley.Four days later, a member of “Abante”,a local organisation of small-scale miners, Mr. Lomer Gerodias, was shot dead in Maragusan, also in CompostelaValley. Both killings were believed to have been carried out by Philippinesoldiers. Two others, Mr. Jezreel Arrabis and his wife Ms. Dalia Arrabis, both members of theFarmers Association in Davao City (FADC), were gunned down in Davao City onSeptember 2, 2017.
Inaddition to extrajudicial killings, human rights defenders operating in thePhilippines continue to be the target of harassment, death threats, and verbalabuse. On August 22, police raided the houses of peasant activists Mr. Rolando Gumban, his son Jeremy Gumban, and son-in-law Jun Roy Diane - all members of farmersgroup Pamanggas-KMP, which works topromote land rights in Sitio Lubigan, Barangay Pananawan, Masbate Province.Police arrested the three and detained them at Sara police station, IloiloProvince. The charges against them are still unknown. In July and August,several members of Karapatan, including Secretary Generals Ms. Cristina Palabayand Mr. Reylan Vergara, receiveddeath threats. On August 20, 2017, Dr. DarbySantiago, Chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) - amember organisation of Karapatan, also received death threats.
Afact-finding mission to the Philippines, carried out by the Observatory fromAugust 7 to 16, 2017, observed an increasingly hostile environment for humanrights defenders in the country. Interlocutors reported having experiencedincreased difficulties in carrying out their human rights activities underPresident Duterte, particularly in relation to investigations surroundingextrajudicial killings allegedly committed by police and vigilantes as part ofDuterte’s ‘war on drugs’.
HouseBill 1617, which is currently under consideration before the House ofRepresentatives and aims at strengthening the protection of human rightsdefenders, could help improve the situation for defenders. The draftlegislation reaffirms the rights of human rights defenders when carrying outtheir peaceful and legitimate activities. It also imposes an obligation on theGovernment to take all precautionary measures to ensure the protection of humanrights defenders against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or dejure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of their legitimate activities.
The Observatory for the Protection ofHuman Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and theWorld Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme isto prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human RightsDefenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
Formore information, please contact:
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94 / AudreyCouprie: +33 6 48 05 91 57
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39
 For more background information, seein particular Observatory Mission Report, ThePhilippines: Human rights defenders at the forefront despite an ongoing cultureof violence and impunity, February 2015.