UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor tells Philippines to protect human rights defenders

·Contributor
·2 min read
Founder of Front Line Defenders Organisation Mary Lawlor, who is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, holds a press conference in Dakar, Senegal on September 8, 2015. (Photo by Cemil Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Founder of Front Line Defenders Organisation Mary Lawlor, who is also the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, holds a press conference in Dakar, Senegal on September 8, 2015. (Photo by Cemil Oksuz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, has renewed her call on the authorities of the Philippine government to protect the human rights defenders in the country.

This renewed call comes after human rights group Karapatan’s Secretary-General, Tinay Palabay, is set to take the witness stand today in a perjury case filed against her organization, and two other progressive groups such as Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela, by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“We have seen in recent years that many defenders have been dragged before the courts, smeared, red tagged and murdered in the Philippines. This intimidation should stop immediately,” Lawlor said in a statement released on Saturday, June 18, as she stressed this “instead of pursuing countersuits against them for seeking legal protection from threats.”

The perjury case was triggered after these organizations named Esperson as a respondent in a protection order filed before the Philippine Supreme Court amidst heightened attacks against human rights workers and defenders in the country, such as the case of Ryan Hubilla of Karapatan–Sorsogon and Zara Alvarez who were killed in June 2019 and August 2020, respectively.

According to Karapatan, their national officers are set to give their testimonies before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 139 from June 20 to August 1, 2022.

Meanwhile, a Belgium-based non-government organization, Viva Salud, has called for the junking of the cases against the organizations, and has also called on the incoming Marcos Jr. government to address the worsening human rights situation of the outgoing Duterte administration.

“We firmly stand with our partners Karapatan and Gabriela against this judicial harassment and the continuing persecution of human rights defenders in the Philippines,” their statement read. “Amid the hostile political climate, they have persistently and courageously defended human rights and tirelessly worked for the realization of the social and economic rights of the people, especially the poor and marginalized.”

“I urge the authorities in the Philippines to stop the targeting of Human Rights Defenders, and instead promote and protect their work,” Lowlor said. “We know that harassment and threats can be precursors to physical attacks, as they make defenders more vulnerable and isolated. These attacks should stop immediately.”

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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