Tell it to SunStar: Stop extrajudicial arrest, detention of Philippine human rights defenders!

·5 min read

The Hong Kong Campaign for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) is deeply alarmed that the human rights crisis that started under the regime of former President Duterte has not only continued but is actively worsening under President Marcos Jr.

Just two months into Marcos Jr.’s term as President, five activists have been forcibly disappeared; four activists have been illegally arrested; church people and advocates of children’s rights have been harassed and prosecuted in court; books have been banned; and accusations have been hurled against journalists for their reporting.

Forced disappearances of activists

* Four activists have been missing for an extended period of time with no word on their whereabouts and no warrants of arrest issued for them. Elizabeth Magbanua, long-time member of Gabriela, and Alipio Juat, an organizer for Kilusang Mayo Uno, were reported missing on May 3, 2022 after attending a meeting related to their organizing. Family members reported that police blocked their exit from the subdivision where the meeting was happening. Elgene Mungcal of Gabriela Women’s Party-list and Ma. Elena Cortez Pampoza of Anakpawis were last seen on July 3, 2022.

* A fifth activist, Stephen (“Steve”) Tauli, was abducted on Aug. 20, 2022. Tauli is a regional council member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and an organizer of the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga. A long-time defender of indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights, Tauli has been red-tagged and subjected to surveillance by the government. After a search initiated by CPA in Kalinga, including persistent calls made to the local government institutions, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines, Tauli was found alive more than 24 hours later. He recounted that he was forced into a vehicle, blindfolded, handcuffed, threatened and interrogated throughout his captivity by unidentified armed persons.

Illegal arrest of activists

* Meanwhile, illegal arrests of activists on the basis of trumped up charges continues throughout the country. In Mindanao, Lumad teacher Gary Campos was arrested on July 17, 2022. Campos is a Lumad-Manobo and a member of Malahuyatong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod or Mapasu—a Lumad organization at the forefront in defending the Andap Valley Complex against foreign large-scale coal mining.

* Pangadas Brothers who are Lumad members of the Kabataan Party-list were arrested in Davao City, on July 25, 2022. The brothers had just finished attending the People’s State of the Nation protest in the city’s Freedom Park when they were arrested and charged with trumped up cases of child trafficking and other allegations.

* On July 28, Marites Pielago, coordinator of Makabayan Bicol and former Bayan Muna Party-list nominee, was arrested while in the hospital by combined forces of the police and military. She faces trumped up charges of murder and frustrated (attempted) murder.

Attacks on religious sector

* Even church leaders have been attacked as leaders of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente (Philippine Independent Church) have faced red-tagging, surveillance and harassment. This includes Kabataan Party-list Ilocos regional coordinator and second nominee Angel Galimba. On July 23, Ilocos Sur regional police stopped every public utility vehicle at checkpoints looking for Galimba.

* Several Catholic nuns from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines were among the 16 people accused of financing the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, which is branded a terrorist organization by the Philippine government. The case was filed by the Marcos government on Aug. 15, 2022 before a trial court in Iligan City in Mindanao.

Attacks on Freedom of the Press

* On Aug. 9, 2022 the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) issued a memo to stop the distribution in schools and public libraries of “subversive” books and publications that allegedly contain texts that are against the government. The memo describes the books as “anti-Marcos” and “anti-Duterte” and includes titles from the late National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera and other award-winning authors as well as books published by the KWF themselves.

* On Aug. 23, 2022 as Filipino children returned to school for the first time in two years, Philippine Inquirer reporter Jane Bautista wrote about a shortage of armchair desks at Jose Abad Santos High School in Manila, and it was confirmed by faculty and the president of the school. The Department of Education National Capital Region then claimed the report was false.

Attacks on children, students

* As children returned to school on Aug. 23, 2022, members of the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns distributed free face masks, alcohol and food to families at President Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Barangay Batasan Hills in Quezon City. The distribution was violently stopped by the Quezon City police who confiscated the donated items, harassed Salinlahi staff and attempted to arrest them.

In addition to all this, President Marcos has committed to continuing the fascist policies of the Duterte regime, including the war on the poor in the guise of a war on drugs, support for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which since its founding in 2018 has facilitated impunity for extrajudicial killings through its red-tagging of activists. Marcos is also refusing to allow the International Criminal Court access to the country to independently investigate the human rights violations of Duterte.

As the 50th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law under President Marcos Sr. nears, HKCAHRPP joins with the global community in expressing our continuing and strengthening solidarity with the broad masses of the Filipino people in their cries for justice.