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Philippines
09.03.21
Urgent Interventions

Philippines: Deadly crackdown on human rights defenders

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

PHL 002 / 0321 / OBS 031
Extrajudicial killing /
Arbitrary detention
The Philippines
March 9, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in The Philippines.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by Karapatan Alliance Philippines about the extrajudicial killing of nine human rights defenders and the arbitrary detention of four others in four provinces in Calabarzon region.

On March 7, 2021, the Philippines National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army (PA) carried out raids into the houses and offices of several human rights defenders in Calabarzon region, southern Philippines as part of a joint operation against alleged members of “communist and terrorist groups”.

During the raids, the PNP and the PA killed Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, labour leader and Secretary-General of BAYAN-Cavite, in Dasmariñas, Cavite Province; fisherfolk leaders Ana MarieChai Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista, in Nasugbu, Batangas Province; Melvin Dasigao, Mark Lee “Makmak” Coros Bacasno, all members of the urban poor group Sikkad K3 in Montalban, Rizal Province. Indigenous farmers Abner Esto, Edward Esto, Dumagats Puroy and Randy Dela Cruz were also killed during the raids in Tanay, Rizal Province.

Furthermore, the PNP and the PA arbitrarily arrested Esteban “Steve” Mendoza, Vice-President of the trade union Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU - May First Movement)-Olalia and Elizabeth “Mags” Camoral, spokesperson of BAYAN-Laguna, in Cabuyao, Laguna Province. Nimfa Lanzanas, paralegal of Karapatan and member of Kapatid-Families and Friends of Political Prisoners was arbitrarily arrested in Calamba, Laguna Province. Eugene Eugenio, member of the public sector union Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)-Rizal was arbitrarily arrested in Antipolo City, Rizal Province.

At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Mr. Mendoza and Ms. Lanzanas remain detained at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba; Ms. Camoral at Canlubang City Jail, Laguna Province; and Mr. Eugenio at the Antipolo Police Station. All of them are being detained on charges of “illegal possession of firearms and ammunition”.

According to the information received, two other individuals were arrested during the raids. However, at the time of publication of this urgent appeal, their identities had not been disclosed by the PNP. Many more human rights defenders are in fear of being arrested or killed.

Two days before the above-referenced events, on March 5, 2021, President Duterte had ordered the PNP and the PA to “ignore human rights” and “kill” and “finish off” communist rebels in any armed encounter with them.

The Observatory recalls that since President Duterte took power in June 2016, human rights defenders have faced relentless vilification and red-tagging[1] with the aim to discredit their peaceful work and to silence all critical voices, thus creating a climate in which attacks against them are acceptable and legitimised.

The Observatory condemns in the strongest terms the extrajudicial killing and arbitrary detention of the above-mentioned human rights defenders and urges the authorities of the Philippines to carry out immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into the use of lethal force in the raids, to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law.

The Observatory reiterates its utmost concern over the ongoing killings and attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines, and calls upon the authorities to adopt effective measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the country, as well as to ensure proper investigations into such killings and attacks.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Philippines asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in the country;

ii. Carry out immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into the above-mentioned use of lethal force in the raids in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iii. Ensure that adequate, effective and prompt reparation, including adequate compensation and rehabilitation, is granted to the families of the victims for the violation of their human rights;

iv. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Esteban Mendoza and Eugene Eugenio, Mses. Elizabeth Camoral and Nimfa Lanzanas, as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the Philippines, since their arbitrary detention seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

v. Put an end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines in your respective countries.

***

Geneva-Paris, March 9, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

  • E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
  • Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
  • Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18


[1] “Red-tagging” is the process of labelling individuals or groups perceived to be critical of the government as “terrorists” and/or “communists”.


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